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Friday, September 28, 2007

14. The Church of the Intellectual

“What happens when one has striven long and hard to develop a working view of the world, a seemingly useful, workable map, and then is confronted with new information suggesting that that view is wrong and the map needs to be largely redrawn? The painful effort required seems frightening, almost overwhelming. What we do more often than not, and usually unconsciously, is to ignore the new information. Often this act of ignoring is much more than passive. We may denounce the new information as false, dangerous, heretical, the work of the devil. We may actually crusade against it, and even attempt to manipulate the world so as to make it conform to our view of reality. Rather than try to change the map, an individual may try to destroy the new reality. Sadly, such a person may expend much more energy ultimately in defending an outmoded view of the world than would have been required to revise and correct it in the first place.” - M. Scott Peck, “The Road Less Traveled”

“Those who do not believe in God inevitably believe in something else.” - unknown

When did science stop being scientific? When did we stop searching for proof and start putting our faith in theories? When did intellectuals start behaving as zealots rather than somber and stoic researchers seeking verifiable facts?

During my life I have been repeatedly warned of impending doom, of crises of cataclysmic proportions. Each was backed by scientific theory, often supported by computer simulation models. In each case, the outcomes were so horrific that if we as a people did not immediately take action our generation would likely be the last. These theories advanced within the public with such force and amassed such bodies of enthusiastic disciples that it put even Elmer Gantry to shame.

These crises included overpopulation, global cooling, the hole in the ozone layer, the dangers of silicone breast implants and the AIDS virus becoming the plague of the heterosexual community. In each case I listened to the fear and panic of the believers and I also listened to the objections of those with opposing views. In each case, history has proven the hysteria unwarranted.

The believers of these theories moved forward with religious fervor. They alone possessed the truth. Non-believers were blind and were being fed lies by evil and corrupt right-wing extremists and greedy corporations.

The latest crisis based upon scientific theory is that man, through carbon emissions, is responsible for global warming. As before, the zealotry of its followers can only be compared to the most extreme of religious sects or cults. Here is my list of similarities between both groups:

1. Apocalyptic Destruction. Each crisis carries an “end of the world” type scenario and the need to act is immediate. With global warming, some have set cut-off dates in the not too distant future. “If we don’t act now, all will be lost.”

2. We Are To Blame. Only through belief in the theory and redemption by converting others can we find salvation. The enemies we must rally against are those that speak against the Truth.

3. There Is Only One Truth, One Path To Salvation. All other theories are lies. These “false” theories are the voice of the devil trying to sway us from the path of light. Regardless of the fact that many reputable climatologists disagree that humans are the cause of global warming, they are attacked as “not credible” and their motivations are questioned.

4. The Truth Shall Not Be Questioned. Knowledge is handed down from the elders, in this case, scientists and professors. Those that question the Truth are attacked as stupid. They are blind and cannot see. Gore repeatedly claims that not one credible scientist disagrees with his scenario. The Truth is absolute – it is black and white.

5. Evangelistic-Like Prophets Preaching To The Masses. Al Gore is the proclaimed prophet of global warming. Preying upon emotions of believers and non-believers, his movie and speeches work to raise the level of “consciousness.” On May 5th in San Antonio, Texas, Gore even compared global warming to a “spiritual crisis.” When asked to debate the science of global warming, Gore declines. “I am not a scientist,” he responds. One can only assume that the prophet need not explain his beliefs – but his version of the truth shall set you free.

6. Proselytizing. One way we convince ourselves of that which we believe but cannot prove is by converting others. In Ontario, Canada a high school student was forced to watch “An Inconvenient Truth” four times by four different teachers, one being his gym class. No opposing opinions were offered, just the word of the prophet himself.

7. Penance and Absolution. The sins of the believers and non-believers can be forgiven. By changing their lifestyles to “green” they can find personal salvation. But, even believers will stray from the path. Even though Al Gore charters private jets and his house in Tennessee uses twenty times the energy of the average American home, Gore seeks penance and absolution by buying “carbon credits.” Somehow this reminds me of Don Corleone ordering a “hit” on another family and then going to confession to wipe the slate clean.

The truth is that many scientists – credible scientists – disagree with Gore’s theory. Their research and conclusions are readily available, yet are ignored by Gore and his disciples. Their positions often show that although Gore’s arguments may be based on logical assumptions, history has shown these assumptions to be incorrect or at least, not reliable.

An honest debate would seem to be in order – a calm, objective debate by climatologists on both sides of the issue. But the body of believers is not interested in such a debate. These self-proclaimed intellectuals, believers in the infallibility of science, the purity of its approach and the denial that its approach can hold bias, see no need for scientific inquiring and debate.

Even when time proves these disciples and followers wrong, they still hold fast to their beliefs. In 1993, Michael Fumento published “The Myth of Heterosexual AIDS.” At that time, allegedly scientific models predicted that AIDS would sweep through the heterosexual community, killing like no plague before in history. Mr. Fumento, using data from the Center for Disease Control (CDC), laid out his hypothesis that AIDS would never spread significantly beyond the homosexual community exempting high-risk groups such as IV drug users. In May 2007, as I write this essay, no such plague has occurred. In spite of this, I noticed a review of his book on in which the reviewer called the book a work of “pure fiction” and finished, not surprisingly, by attacking the author, calling him a “homophobe.” Although this review was posted in August of 2004, the reviewer still holds fast to her beliefs that AIDS will spread into the heterosexual community killing by the millions.

The intellectual Left mocks and criticizes the Christian Right for the same things for which they too are guilty. They have blind faith in Al Gore and his teachings. They are not interested in opposing points of view. They demonize, label and attack those that disagree with them. They are convinced that they alone hold the Truth and the keys to salvation.

The Church of the Intellectual and its body of believers continue. Though they justify their beliefs using science, there is little that is scientific about them.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

13. The Alpha Excuse

Fourteen months before the 2008 presidential election, the candidates are out in force, pounding us with their rhetoric. Platforms and policies are painted with broad brush strokes with few details provided. Promises are being made which are likely impossible to fulfill but they are made with good reason. These promises set the stage for future excuses.

In his book “Education Myths,” Jay P. Greene gives a perfect example of what I call the “Alpha Excuse.” The public school system is failing to teach our nation’s children even the most basic skills necessary to compete and thrive in our society. The principle excuse given by both the school system and the teacher’s unions is “overcrowded classrooms” and their success can only be attained by “significantly reducing the number of children per class.” Mr. Green points out that significantly smaller class size is not a workable solution. If the average class size is cut in half, the number of schools, teachers and education spending would all have to double. Both the schools and the unions know that such a proposal will never be approved yet instead of looking at alternate solutions they continue blame their failures on those that oppose their initial recommendations.

This “excuse” was named after an arrogant and incompetent co-worker of mine from the 1980s. His actual first name was Alpha. Regardless of the task assigned to him, Alpha always proposed a solution so sweeping and costly he knew it would never be approved, but he always proposed it with much conviction and bravado. Much like the schools and unions above, he now had his excuse, his reason for failing to complete the task. “I told you what needed to be done, I told you the solution to the problem but you refused to implement my recommendations. Is it any wonder the project failed?” Yet, just like the school system, Alpha always had his believers and followers who accepted his excuses regardless of the fact that the problems were eventually solved by others, using workable and economical approaches.

Our politicians are big believers in the “Alpha Excuse.” It works to their benefit on many levels. They propose unworkable legislation knowing it will be rejected in committee yet they are able to return to their constituents as heroes. “I did my best but the greedy, selfish, special interest driven opposition voted it down.”

In a prior essay I wrote about Global Warming and the Left’s seemingly unwillingness to take any sort of practical approach to the problem. Even in Al Gore’s “Inconvenient Truth” he outlines the alleged problem but without giving any concrete and workable solutions. The Left often blames George W. Bush and other greedy, selfish Republicans for the failure of the ratification of The Kyoto Treaty, another example of an Alpha Excuse. It was absurd to think we would sign a treaty that places the burden of reducing carbon emissions on the US while not placing those same limitations on emerging and heavily polluting countries such as China and India. But as much as Al Gore likes to blame the right, the treaty was defeated in 1997 in the Democrat controlled Senate by a vote of 95 to 0. Although the press continues to blame the Right for Kyoto’s failure, not one Leftist Senate luminary including Ted Kennedy, Barbara Boxer or John Kerry voted for its ratification. Instead of considering viable approaches to reducing energy demands, the Left continues to use Kyoto as their Alpha Excuse.

Another example is the “War is not the Answer” crowd. This group continues to point toward negotiation and continued dialogue to end international conflicts, saying, “War solves nothing.” Despite history proving otherwise, this delusional, quasi-religious crowd continues to chant their mantra of negotiation. It’s the perfect Alpha Excuse – even if negotiations do take place, as was the case in Iraq with Saddam Hussein, this group simply wants more and more negotiations. If dealing with thugs such as Hussein is so simple, why doesn’t this crowd prove their theory by bringing an end to gang violence in the major cities of the US? Simply go in, start negotiations and dialogue and stop the drug use, the drug sales and the killings. Prove to me you have the skills to fix this one domestic problem and then I might consider that you have solutions regarding international issues But, if you can’t control those in our own country armed with guns and knives how can I believe you to be able to subdue a madman trying to acquire nuclear bombs?

Jesse Jackson uses a version of the Alpha Excuse every time he talks about “empowering” people. Such a vague and subjective term gives him the freedom to continue his attacks on individuals, corporations and the government saying racism continues to exist and his followers continue to suffer. No amount of empirical data can prove his argument wrong. Only he can determine the moment when they are truly “empowered.”

When HillaryCare raises its ugly head once more, instead of placing our entire health care system under one huge bureaucratic monster, why not test the plan in one major city and set objective goals and a time line for reaching those goals. It would seem that New York City would be the perfect place to test this theory. The “Last Bastion of Liberalism” should embrace such a program. But they won’t and their reasons will be Alpha Excuses. “Unless the entire country is under such a plan, it will fail.” The reasons why will vary, but the excuses will remain. Imagine medicine taking such an approach, “The new drug failed in early, limited tests and had dangerous side effects, but in wide distribution, it will work just fine.”

The coming election year will yield many Alpha-type excuses. Hopefully at least one candidate will emerge who will rise above such nonsense.

12. Sorry Rabbi, I Guess You're Stupid Too

The Left enjoys calling people stupid who in any way disagree with their unusual and subjective form of logic. So, since I often disagree with them, I guess I’m stupid too. Several months ago I, like many Americans, chose not to see the movie “All The King’s Men.” I chose not to see it because the star is Sean Penn. I won’t see any movie with Sean Penn or Julia Roberts or Jennifer Aniston or Alec Baldwin or a host of other Hollywood luminaries. I’m stupid, I’m told, because I can’t look beyond their politics.

Larry Elder, the conservative talk show host, interviewed the producer of “All The King’s Men” prior to its release. Larry asked him if he was concerned that people would avoid attending the movie because of Sean Penn. The producer stated that Americans were “smarter than that.” He felt Americans could look beyond the politics of the movie makers and the actors and see only the movie.

Well, I didn’t see the movie but I guess I’m in good company because the movie bombed at the box office. What is even more interesting is that after it bombed, the response from Hollywood was that Americans were too stupid to appreciate such an intellectual film. Now wait – are we smart or are we stupid? Interestingly enough, in checking the numerous bad reviews on, it appears that film critics are stupid too.

It’s not that I can’t handle someone not agreeing with me. It’s not that I can’t accept others who don’t share my views. But I don’t consider comments like, “Bush is a f***ing idiot” from the lovely Jennifer Aniston, to be intelligent debate. I don’t consider Julia Roberts comments, “You’ll find Republican in the dictionary between reptile and repugnant” to be respectful commentary. I don’t see Sean Penn’s many diatribes including his missive to the creators of South Park in which he closed the letter with, “All best, and a sincere f*** you” to be anything worthy of respect. But what perplexes me even more is that the self-proclaimed intellectual left can’t even comprehend my position.

I share very few views with Senator Joe Lieberman. But I have respect for the man and am always willing to listen to his opinions. He presents rational and intelligent arguments. He doesn’t name call, he doesn’t yell and scream – he just calmly presents his side of the issue. I like that. I respect that.

So, I’ve chosen to boycott films by those in Hollywood who are less than respectful to the views of others. Considering those on the left from Jesse Jackson to labor unions to Cesar Chavez have all supported boycotts, I would think they could understand my position. But no, if I boycott France or the Dixie Chicks or Sean Penn I’m considered childish and stupid and I want to stifle free speech. The left has tried endlessly to silence Rush Limbaugh but in no way are they ever against free speech. No, that label is reserved for those of us who are right of center.

Shortly after Mel Gibson’s arrest in Malibu, Entertainment Tonight interviewed Rabbi Marvin Hier of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles. The topic was Mel’s new movie “Apocalypto.” The Rabbi was asked if he would attend the movie. Since the Rabbi is a member of the Motion Picture Academy, they also asked if he would consider voting for the film for any award. The Rabbi answered "no" to both questions.

Even someone as non-intellectual and stupid as me can understand the Rabbi’s position.

Not surprisingly, no one asked the Rabbi why he couldn’t look beyond Mr. Gibson’s virulent anti-Semitic comments and see only the movie. No one suggested that Rabbi Hier wasn’t “smart enough” to look at the film and not the film maker.

Well Rabbi, if you are stupid, which I doubt, you too are in good company.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

11. The Children's Medical Corporation

In January 2013 the newly elected President and Congress of the United States began their first session. At the top of the agenda was health care for children. Unable to pass legislation creating universal health care for all Americans, it was decided to scale back the program and instead cover all children to the age of 18. Both the House of Representatives and the Senate were controlled by the Democrats. Their original proposal created a new government agency which would administer and implement the program. The President, a Republican, vowed to veto the bill unless the program was contracted to a private agency. Not having enough votes to override the impending veto, Congress relented and the bill was passed and signed. The Medicare portion of the Social Security tax was increased to pay for the program.

The contract was awarded to the newly formed Children’s Medical Corporation (CMC). This corporation was a conglomerate of existing medical insurance, pharmaceutical and heath care provider companies. It immediately began building health clinics for children throughout the United States. Finally the dream was a reality – free health care for all children. Although available to all children, parents still had the option to seek their own doctor and pay the associated fees. Parents opting out of the program were still required to pay the additional Medicare tax.

After the program had been in place for three years, the media began documenting problems within the system. Television news programs aired investigative reports on the poor health care children were receiving and the spiraling costs. Because of pressure from the public, Congress launched a special independent study into CMC. Here are the findings of that study:

1. Of the health care received, over 50% was rated as “not acceptable” and in the poorest, inner city neighborhoods the rate was as high as 75%. This was not based on opinion but on verifiable testing. The results were disputed by CMC which pointed out that the study was biased and conducted by a “left-wing” attack group.

2. Cost per child of the health care given was 40% to 100% higher than care given at non-CMC facilities – yet the care given at other facilities was demonstrably better.

3. Although impossible to determine an exact figure, it was found that CMC, its associated companies, clinics and clinic employees, spent hundreds of millions of dollars in lobbying efforts and political contributions. Although Democrats in congress were benefactors of these contributions, by far the biggest recipients, including the President, were Republicans.

4. In spite of the fact that CMC costs were higher and the quality of health care lower than non-CMC care, CMC continued to insist that the issue was one of money. A CMC spokesperson quote in a television interview said, “we are not receiving enough from the government to give each child the attention and quality of health care they deserved.” When asked to give an exact figure at which they would deliver the highest quality of care possible, CMC replied, “The more the better.”

5. All CMC employees at all clinics were members of the Health Care Providers Union (HCPU). The HCPU defended CMC stating that their member wages were below the national averages for comparable jobs. “It is critical that wages be increased to attract the best medical professionals possible. The lives of our children depend on it,” stated Marie Dayton of the HCPU local in California.

6. Comparison of the CMC corporate hierarchy to better performing, lower cost health care companies showed that for every 100 actual health care providers there were over 130 administrators and non-healthcare employees. The ratio in the better performing companies was less than 40 non-health care providers to every 100 that did provide care. Clearly, if money was the problem in CMC, it was being directed toward administration rather than actual health care for the nation’s children.

7. In one unbelievable waste of public money, over $300 million was spent by CMC for a new hospital in Los Angeles. After the clinic was completed, it was found it could not be used because it was built directly on top of a major earthquake fault line. While the facility sits empty and unused neither CMC nor any of its directors or administrators have been held accountable.

8. The study also revealed that the richest 5% of Americans rarely used CMC for their children’s healthcare. Poorer parents, of course, had no other option.

Congress launched a massive attack against CMC accusing it of squandering public money, public trust and endangering America’s future by providing poor health care to its children. The White House defended CMC and proposed that Congress appropriate additional funds to CMC for one region of the US. If the quality of care did not improve in two years he would consider other alternatives.

After dramatically increasing funding to one mid-west region it was found that over a two year period quality of care actually fell. CMC built state of the art clinics and laboratories with the money they received but the actual quality of care to the children declined.

As the scrutiny from the media continued, doctors and nurses working for CMC defended the medical care they provided saying, “these attacks are an insult to each one of us personally as well as to our profession. Our love and our concern is for the children of America. Anyone not working here in these clinics and hospitals day after day has no basis from which to criticize us.”

The President, in a complete about face, refused to consider any alternative other than increased funding to CMC paid for by increased taxes. A statement released by the President and endorsed by the CMC and the HCPU read, “I cannot believe that anyone could possibly think that the solution to this serious problem is ‘less money.’ I will not support any move that endangers the future of our nation’s children.”

It was noted in one report that neither the President nor most members of Congress, Republican and Democrat, use the CMC for their own children’s health care. As pressure from the public increased to do something about the situation, the CMC and the HCPU launched a series of advertising campaigns to “set the record straight.” Although there was some grandstanding on the part of Congressional Democrats who wanted the system placed under government control, no action has been taken by either party in Congress or from the White House. For CMC, it is “business as usual.”

The above is obviously fiction – set in the future. Although the names and the dates have been changed, the story is true. There is no CMC and the year is obviously not 2017. So what is the CMC-type conglomerate of which I speak? It is the public school system.

1. Over 50% of students leave the public school system classified as “functionally illiterate.” They do not have the basic tools necessary to compete in a modern world. Even though they may (or may not) graduate from high school they operate with skills lower than a fifth grade level. In poor inner-city schools, this number increases to 75%.

2. The average cost of public education in the US in the 2003-4 school year was $8,300 with a high of $13,300 in New Jersey. There was no correlation between amount spent per state and performance. Private education consistently outperforms public education and, excluding the top, most expensive private schools, costs 20% to 60% less than public education. Even charter schools, such as in Oakland, California and Washington D.C., operate at a far lower cost per pupil yet deliver measurably better education to their students.

3. The NEA, California Teacher’s Association, and state teacher’s unions spend hundreds of millions of dollars in lobbying, advertisements, mailers and political contributions.

4. In a comparison of public to private schools regarding teachers versus all non-teaching positions (including administration) it was found in private schools that for every 100 teachers there were 25 to 40 non-teachers. I recently contacted the Los Angeles Unified School District and found for every 100 teachers there were over 130 non-teachers. Considering that teaching only takes place in the classroom it is difficult to imagine the need for so many administrators and non-teachers.

5. The $300 million facility mention above is the Belmont Learning Center. Far worse than an earthquake fault, the school was built over a waste dump emitting toxic fumes. Unlike Enron, where Ken Lay was justifiably sent to prison, no one in the public school system was held accountable.

6. For all of the grandstanding done by such pro-public education politicians such as the Clintons and the Kennedys, none actually send their children to public schools. Poor people, of course, have no such options as those rich, deeply concerned individuals who consistently reject choice in education. Those hundreds of millions of lobbying and political contribution dollars seem to be having the desired effect.

7. Because of chronically low education scores in Kansas City, a court ordered an additional $2 billion spent to improve the schools. After building gyms, Olympic pool facilities, computer labs, and paying taxis to transport white students to the schools, education scores actually got worse. The schools subsequently lost their accreditation.

Without an education our children will fail in this technological age. With over 50% of children leaving school as functionally illiterate it is difficult to believe that anyone who does not directly receive money from the current system can actually defend it, yet defend it they do.

Comparing a corporation to a government agency may seem like comparing apples to oranges. One is profit driven and one is not. Yet without the objective of profits and without market pressures to ensure excellence, government agencies are consistently wasteful and consistently deliver poor results. If being under government control ensures quality why then is the Veteran’s Administration (VA) health care system one of the worst in the country?

The public has a right to expect a corporation to deliver goods and services that are safe and “as advertised.” If not, we have the right to sue. In 1976 a suit was brought by a San Francisco high school graduate who could only read at the fifth grade level. His charge was educational malpractice. The court found that there was no duty for the state to provide a minimum level of skill and “thus no cause of action in negligence.” So the courts have ruled – public schools have no duty to ensure that our children are actually educated, all they must do is continue to operate schools.

If the public is given choice in education through a voucher system, parents, especially poor parents whose children attend some of the worst performing schools in our country, will quickly exercise that choice and send their children to private schools. Most private schools are not for profit yet perform far better than public schools. Why? If they don’t perform parents will pull their children from the school and it will eventually close. Even the public corporation Sylvan Learning Center, although driven by profits must deliver excellence or their doors too will close. Public schools in Belgium, where the voucher system is used, also deliver excellent education and at a fair price as they too much compete for voucher dollars.

In spite of all the facts and data showing the failure and waste of the public school system, nothing changes. The issue is consistently “more money will fix the problem.” What a joke. If, like the CMC, the education of our children was contracted to a private corporation and these were the results, politicians on both sides of the aisle would be outraged. Since it is a government agency, they are defended. For the public school system it is just “business as usual.

Monday, September 17, 2007

10. America the Prejudiced

I have been fortunate in my life to meet and work with people who have immigrated to the United States. These friends and co-workers came from Europe, Central and South America, India, Africa and Asia. Possibly because of the nature of my work and the region of the US in which I live, the greatest majority of those who I have met have been from the Pacific Rim – Korea, Japan, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Vietnam and Thailand. Their stories and reasons for coming to this country are different and yet the same. Although some were born into wealthy families, came here for their college education and never returned home, most came looking for opportunity and freedom. Many escaped their home countries risking their lives to do so.

After the fall of South Vietnam and fearing the communist North, many South Vietnamese fled their country. They were the “boat people.” Many women, whose husbands had been arrested and often killed by the North, took their children and what little money they had and left Vietnam by night hoping to someday, somehow reach the United States. In many cases these people were robbed, beaten, cheated out of their money and yet, despite these hardships they arrived in America. They came not speaking English, not knowing our culture and often with no money. They had almost nothing going for them except two things – determination and hope.

In spite of all the reasons that they could have given themselves to fail, they instead succeeded. Once arriving, they must have endured all forms of prejudice. Their language, their culture, their customs and their diet were a curiosity at best and an annoyance at worst to most Americans. One former co-worker of mine told me of how his mother brought him and his seven brothers and sisters to the United States. The oldest child at the time was only 14 years old. Although wealthy in Vietnam, they arrived here penniless. Within this one generation all eight children have graduated from college and now own their own homes, they work as engineers, as small business owners and in medicine.

Don Chang immigrated to the United States from Korea with no money in his pocket. In 1984 he founded the women’s clothing store, “Forever 21” and today has 200 stores with over 7,000 employees. I don’t know Mr. Chang’s personal story but I’m sure he faced bias and prejudice. Instead of wallowing in reasons for failure he chose instead to look at reasons to succeed and succeed he has.

Don Chang’s success is extraordinary for anyone – immigrant or otherwise. But when I look at the accomplishments of the millions of people who have come to this country in just the last 30 years I clearly see America as a land of almost unlimited opportunity. The limits are primarily those which we impose upon ourselves.

The other night at a dinner party I met a twenty-two year old college student. He was nice looking, intelligent, healthy, came from an upper middle class family and was born in America of Asian heritage. His view of the US was one filled with bias and prejudice and his outlook for his future was grim. White men, he told me, are privileged and all others merely struggle as doors are slammed in their faces. Identifying himself as a “victim” he sees his opportunities as limited. Based on his attitude, I have to agree. Compared to Don Chang and many of the immigrants I have worked with, this young man had almost everything possible going for him in life, yet he chooses to look only at the negatives – some real but most merely perceived. Every obstacle he faces in life he will assign to the category of “racism.” It is a rather easy out. It doesn’t require self-reflection, change, effort or education. The world is against me and therefore I will fail.

Bias and prejudice exist in all countries among all people. Yet there is no country in the world which provides so much opportunity for so many people from so many different backgrounds as the United States. Immigrants come to this country and they succeed. They accept and recognize certain limitations, look beyond them and move forward. As I look at myself and the other supposed “privileged white men” I know that we too face obstacles in life. We can, if we choose, give excuses such as I am not good looking enough, I am not tall enough, I am not from the right family, I did not attend the right school, and so forth. But society, fortunately, won’t let us get away with such whining. So many with so much less will accomplish so much more than those that declare themselves “victims” and wallow in that label.

In May 2002, eight months after the 9-11 attack, I was in Munich, Germany about to return to the US. My cab ride to the airport is one I will never forget. My cab driver was Arab and as we pulled away from the hotel he asked me where I was from and I replied, “California.” I regret now that I did not have a video camera because the speech he delivered should have been recorded and shown to every “Blame America First” basher in the US. The passion in his voice could not be denied as he proclaimed the US to be the “greatest country in the world.” At the same time he immigrated to Germany his brother and family immigrated to the US. “When my brother was granted citizenship he was told ‘you are now an American, you now have all the rights of all Americans.’ It didn’t matter that his skin was a different color or that he had an accent or that he struggled with English – he was an American. My brother now owns his own home, he has a great job and his children go to university. I have lived in Germany for over ten years. I will never be granted citizenship, I will never be allowed to own a home, I will never be told that I am German. I will always be a second-class resident of this country. You may not see your country as perfect but to me having lived in both my home country and in Germany I see the United States as the greatest.”


Thursday, September 13, 2007

9. Exit Strategy

The Left has repeatedly claimed that Bush entered Iraq without first defining an exit strategy and that such a strategy still does not exist. If one does exist I’m guessing that Bush may not be interested in discussing it with Ted, Nancy, Harry or Hillary. But the basic question is valid – what defines success, what defines failure and at what point should a program or strategy be abandoned?

In general, I don’t have much faith in the government’s ability to solve problems. This isn’t based merely on my personal ideology; it is based on the lack of results of the vast majority of government programs such as social security, welfare and the public school system. Before implementing these programs and even now that they continue, shouldn’t we define success and failure? Shouldn’t we lay out an exit strategy?

Despite the Left’s claims that conservatives want to privatize social security to make the rich richer while starving little old ladies, the fact is that for the money paid into the system, participants could be retiring in comfort rather than their current state of poverty. In 2005, the average monthly social security payment to an individual was $895 – hardly enough for someone to enjoy their golden years. Although Social Security was created primarily as a safety net, Americans currently pay enough into the system to create a comfortable retirement if it were privatized. Someone earning $35,000 a year currently pays $2,170 into the non-Medicare portion of SSI and the amount is matched by their employer. Instead, if the participant contributed the same amount into an IRA for 43 years (age 22 to age 65) and assuming only a 6% average annual return they would receive over $5,600 a month in private retirement income. Hillary recently declared Social Security as “…the most successful domestic program in the history of the United States.” Michael Moore had similar comments during an interview on CNN. Let’s see - $5,600 a month privately compared to $895 a month through a government program, hmmm, success or failure for SSI? Hillary? Mike? Comments?

In the mid-1960s then President Lyndon Johnson created his “War on Poverty.” How is that war faring? According to Economist Thomas Sowell, “The number of people receiving public assistance more than doubled from 1960 to1977. The money spent on public housing rose nearly fivefold in a decade and the amount spent on food stamps rose more than tenfold. Government-provided benefits in kind increased about eightfold from 1965 to 1969 and more than twenty-fold by 1974.” Mr. Sowell also estimates that nearly seventy cents of every welfare dollar never gets to the intended beneficiary instead going to administrative costs such as rent and salaries of the government staff. Imagine the outrage if a charity such as the United Way or the Red Cross so poorly managed your contributions.

Another front on the “war on poverty” is in the Appalachian Region of the United States. Over a thirty-five year period, from 1964 to 1999, the federal government’s Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) spent over $7.4 billion trying to improve the conditions in this impoverished region. Of the 214 counties defined in the Appalachia Region, the number of counties defined as “distressed” grew from 59 in 1980 to 78 in 1990 and increased to 83 in 2000 according to a June 2002 report prepared by MDC, Inc. Although other reports indicate marginal improvement, this region still has poverty rates 21% higher than the national average with Owsley County, Kentucky leading with a poverty rate of 40.9%! Has the $7.4 billion been well spent? Are we winning the war? Is there a definition of success or of failure? Is there an exit strategy? No, and the “war” rages on with no end in sight.

What about public education? How goes the “war on illiteracy?” In spite of the billions of dollars spent each year over 50% of children still leave the school system functionally illiterate with that number soaring to over 75% in the inner cities. Private schools and even public charter schools in the same neighborhoods perform far better and at far lower costs, yet the cry from the Left is that public schools are under funded. A San Francisco court ruled in 1976 that there was no duty for the state to provide a minimum level of skill in the public school system and they have no duty to ensure that our children are actually educated! Not only is there not a definition for success or failure but there is not even a requirement to succeed. Exit strategy? Please.

Hillary is once again talking about socialized medicine. Her prior proposal would force us all into her plan – like it or not. There were even criminal penalties and jail time for both doctors and patients trying to circumvent the plan. Although I strongly disagree that her approach would improve any aspect of healthcare, I would possibly agree to some government intervention providing there were clear, objective and measurable definitions of success and failure and a point at which should these objectives not be met, the program dissolved. How likely is that to happen? I’d say the odds are zero. The fear among not only the Congressional Republicans in the 1990s but also many Democrats was that once implemented, there was no turning back. Once in place, this new bureaucratic monster would never die regardless of the results of the program.

The goals and objectives of these government programs may be noble, but they should still fall under the same scrutiny as the war in Iraq. Before we set up one more government program, especially one as massive as HillaryCare, we should first define the goals of such a program and ensure that those goals are both objective and measurable. We should define both success and failure and most importantly, if the program fails to meet our objectives, then a pre-planned exit strategy should be exercised.

Does this make sense only to me?

Monday, September 10, 2007

8. Happily Ever After

“…While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.” - Clement C. Moore

Why is it that some people can distinguish between fantasy and reality and others cannot? Does it come from childhood fairy tales? You remember – after a harrowing start our hero and heroine ride off into the sunset to live “happily ever after.” An adult knows that those are words of pure fantasy. But to those whose minds still live in this child-like world, “happily ever after” is real. Somehow, someway if we just believe enough, things will magically all come together and work out.

At the beginning of the first gulf war a liberal co-worker of mine said, “I can’t believe that we would go to war for something as stupid as oil.” No, oil is not a living, breathing thing, but it does ultimately power almost everything we use in this country as well as in most other countries in the world. Turn off the flow of oil and imagine what would happen. Food could not be grown and harvested. Food and products currently stored in silos and warehouses could not be transported. Electricity that powers almost every aspect of our lives would be shut off. People living in areas such as Las Vegas and Phoenix would die by the thousands from heat stroke. What about water? There would be no electricity to power the pumps that bring water to most Americans. Stop the flow of oil and America will quickly start to die. “Stupid as oil?” I can think of almost nothing less stupid to fight for.

I do agree that our dependence on foreign oil is stupid. But here’s where the “Sugar-Plum Dancers” confuse me. They want alternate energy but they deny the realities of such a change. They want power plants to switch to cleaner burning natural gas but they block the drilling of new wells. They love the idea of hydroelectric power but protest against the building of dams. They believe in conspiracies hampering the development of hydrogen cars yet ignore the fact that we would have to burn oil to generate the hydrogen needed to fuel those cars. They also ignore the problems with transportation and storage of hydrogen. When confronted with such dilemmas, they reply, “Well, I don’t know anything about that” and retreat back to fantasy land to continue their ride on the carousel.

The Left protested viciously against the drilling for oil in ANWR, the Alaska National Wildlife Reserve. ANWR lies in the northeast corner of Alaska, north of the Arctic Circle. If developed, less than one-half of one percent of the total 19 million acres of ANWR would be affected. The drilling and development is supported by both the Alaskans and the Inupiat Eskimos who live in and near ANWR. In spite of its extreme location and that its development would leave only a small footprint, the Left has successfully blocked the drilling of oil in ANWR leaving little to feed our voracious appetite for oil.

In a recent article by Jesse Ausubel, a well-known and long-time “Greenie,” Mr. Ausubel stated that most renewable energy the Left so passionately embraces is actually damaging to the environment. Here are some of his examples:

1. Biomass – This is the use of living and recently dead biological material which can be used as fuel, for example, corn. It would take almost 618,000 acres of prime farmland to produce as much energy as one nuclear power plant. Almost five acres of land would be needed to support just one automobile.

2. Hydroelectric Power – To meet the needs of each American, over 247 acres of land would need to be set aside as a reservoir of water behind a hydroelectric dam. To meet the electricity needs of Los Angeles County alone would require over 200 million acres of land committed to water storage. That is an area over 75 times the size of the county itself.

3. Wind Farms – To support the electricity needs of New York City the entire state of Connecticut would have to be turned into a wind farm. This assumes there would be enough constant wind to keep those turbines turning.

4. Solar Power – Over 37 million acres of land would need to be committed to solar cells to meet the electricity needs of the United States. Again, this assumes the sun will always be shining without those pesky and annoying clouds.

If the Left won’t agree to drill for oil in a remote area such as ANWR how will they ever agree to the environmental scars left by solar cells, wind farms, areas flooded by dams? Even worse what of farmland used not to feed the world but instead to feed our energy needs? Yet, somehow in their sugar-plum minds everything will just magically work out.

I know, let’s all wear ribbons – green ribbons. That will fix everything. A green ribbon shows that I care. Caring is all that matters. Caring makes me feel like I’m doing something. Caring makes me feel good about myself. Reality? Forget it.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

7. No Apologies Here Either

Dear John Edwards,

I know you must be busy with all the campaign stops and debates you’re attending but I just wanted to shoot off a quick letter regarding some of your recent comments. It’s not that your opinions have all that much affect on me, but with the remote possibility of you reaching the White House, your mind will no doubt drift towards legislation that very well could impact me – hit me where I live, so to speak.

John, last week you said that, if president, you would ask Americans to give up their SUVs as part of your plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Now I don’t mind you asking me nicely to make changes in my life but what I do mind is when the morals and beliefs of those that think as you do are thrust upon me through laws that impact my quality of life.

The problem I have here, John, is that you live in a 28,000 square foot home that must consume a boat load of energy each day. When away from home you fly on private jets that produce more carbon dioxide in one cross country trip than my small SUV produces in over eighteen months. When you leaving a campaign stop I see you settling in to your nice, big, gas-guzzling Cadillac Escalade SUV. Yes, I’ve heard that you buy those trendy little “carbon offset credits” that Al Gore is so tickled by, but somehow when I look at my modest lifestyle compared to the lavish one led by you and Elizabeth I just feel that you would need to scale back a long, long way before you even think of suggesting I give up one of my small comforts.

I know the press was dogging you a little on this issue last week, questioning you if there was a contradiction in asking Americans to sacrifice while you are living in a mansion large enough to accommodate over fifteen families. You replied that you came from nothing, worked hard and you “have no apologies whatsoever for what I’ve done with my life.”

Now John, I realize that hanging around with your buddies Ted Kennedy and John Kerry might make you think that most Americans are either born into money or simply marry it. But the reality is that like you, most Americans are also hard working individuals from modest backgrounds that have made their own way in life. For you not to give up your SUV or private planes or luxury home while asking us to start thinking about what we should be sacrificing seems just a tad hypocritical. No doubt you’re also thinking about raising taxes should you be elected president. Not only do I not want you to take away my SUV, I don’t want you to take away any more of the money I earn either.

You see John, just like you, most Americans don’t see a need to apologize for what they’ve done with their lives. They worked hard in school and in their jobs, they’ve saved and sacrificed for their children, they’ve invested and they’ve taken risks. You must know this yet you want us to make more sacrifices and feel badly about our choices in life while at the same time seeing no need to change your lifestyle in any way – well except that Elizabeth has agreed to give up tangerines, a move applauded by Al, Tipper and Leo DiCaprio, no doubt.

No John, I’m not asking you to apologize, I’m asking you and all of the other candidates running for office to be role models – you know, leaders, before even thinking of imposing legislation upon me which affects my lifestyle. I’m asking you to fly coach on commercial airlines, to move into a 1,500 square foot home, to drive a modest car, to mow your own lawn, to iron your own shirts, to prepare your own meals and to get $20 haircuts – just like me and most other Americans. My carbon “footprint” is so small next to yours that you can’t plant enough trees to offset your “greenhouse pollution” next to mine, yet you still want to take away my SUV.

I’m not apologizing and I’m not feeling badly about my life choices and neither do most Americans. But you know what John? I’m only suggesting that you change your lifestyle based on your comments and your beliefs, not mine. I live my life according to my own beliefs and principles and I’m happy for you to live according to yours. But when you cross that line and start talking legislation and forcing people to change their lifestyle to conform to your beliefs, I have a problem.

Thanks for listening, John. Feel free to pass this along to your other liberal friends.



Monday, September 3, 2007

6. Between Reptile and Repugnant

The diplomatic and thoughtful Julia Roberts once said, “Republican comes in the dictionary just after reptile and just above repugnant.” Her implications are clear – Democrats are caring, loving, honest, fair and wonderful people while Republicans are greedy, hateful, deceitful and evil. So Julia, does that pretty much sum it up? If America was run exclusively by Democrats then all social ills would be cured – am I right Julia?

August 29, 2007 marked the two year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. On news shows, talk radio and Oprah the subject was New Orleans and the problems that city still faces after the devastation of Katrina. Guests on Oprah displayed grief and sadness at the suffering that still exists. Said one guest, “The people of New Orleans have been forgotten.” The fault, of course, lies squarely on the shoulders of George W. Bush and the racist, evil, uncaring and repugnant Republican Party. To quote John Edwards, “If George Bush’s government were as good and decent and focused as the people of New Orleans, whole parts of the city would not still look like the storm just hit.”

The facts are that New Orleans was in trouble long before Katrina. From the 2000 Census, New Orleans had a poverty rate of 28% compared to an overall 12% rate of the US. New Orleans isn’t some small, hidden town in the Appalachian Mountains; it is one of the largest and most important port cities in the United States. Not only is it a sea port but it is also the terminus of the Mississippi River. In addition, New Orleans is a major tourist attraction with Mardi Gras and a host of other festivals and conventions bringing people in from all over the world. In spite of its location and industrial advantages, New Orleans pre-Katrina ranked first in percentage of population living in poverty areas, third in lowest median household income and third in portion of workforce that is unemployed. In 2003, before Katrina, the murder rate in New Orleans was nearly eight times the national average and since Katrina the rate has increased to almost 10 times the average.

So who is running the show in New Orleans and Louisiana ? Since 1936 the mayors of New Orleans have been exclusively Democrats. Since 1877, Democrats have been governor of Louisiana for 118 of the 130 years. How can so much poverty, crime and grief exist in a city and state firmly controlled by Democrats?

The first reason seems to be government corruption. Before Katrina, New Orleans ranked second in the nation for the number of public corruption convictions and indictments. In a 2005 Louisiana State University poll of 419 business executives, corruption in New Orleans was ranked as among the worst aspects of doing business in that city. Investors and managers are reluctant to come “because they don’t want to pay the corruption tax,” said Rafael C. Goyeneche, president of the Metropolitan Crime Commission. New Orleans public schools are also some of the worst performing in the country. Long before Katrina the school system was riddled with corruption, mismanagement and poor bookkeeping. Who suffers at the hands of these caring, non-repugnant Democrats? It is the poor, black children who, with no education, will have no hope for a bright future.

In the days leading up to Katrina coming ashore, it was clear this hurricane could potentially destroy New Orleans. On August 28, Mayor Ray Nagin released a strong warning to his constituents regarding the potential devastation the city faced and ordered them to leave the city. As cars streamed away from New Orleans several reporters remained and interviewed residents. Many discounted the possible effects of Katrina and refused to leave. None I saw interviewed complained of the lack of transportation. But, even if they did, where was Ray Nagin? Where was Governor Kathleen Blanco? What were they doing to ensure the safety of their people? Weeks after the storm, Governor Blanco even admitted that President Bush called offering federal assistance and she refused. Yet the aftermath left Nagin and Blanco blaming only George W. Bush and the Republicans in Congress.

New Orleans is obviously not the only city in the US controlled by Democrats that seems to be unable to deal with their social and fiscal problems. For those who claim to have the answers for this country they seem incapable of solving the problems within their own cities. In the 1980s, both New York City and State were controlled by Democrats. In spite of New York City having an economy larger than most countries, they continued to blame Ronald Reagan, looking to him to solve their problems with homelessness. What were Mayor Koch and Governor Cuomo doing on their own to solve this problem, I mean, besides blaming Reagan and all of the other greedy and hateful Republicans? I don’t know. What I do know is that this problem had a rather simple first-step solution. The city and state governments could have raised taxes on income, property and sales and used the revenue to build shelters to care for its cities homeless. Couldn’t either of these thoughtful, caring and intelligent Democrats think of that? Or, like Julia Roberts, was it just a lot easier to call Republicans names?

Detroit, St. Louis, Cleveland and Newark all have been primarily controlled by Democrats for the last fifty years. Yet all rank at or near the top of lists of cities with the highest crime and poverty rates. As I scanned biographies of the past mayors of these cities the one world that appeared over and over again was “corruption.”

If New Orleans, St. Louis, Cleveland, Detroit and Newark are prime examples of cities historically controlled by Democrats, I fear how much “better” life could be throughout the US if all decisions were turned over to that compassionate party. The Bush administration reported that over $96 billion in aid and reconstruction has already been spent in the gulf region. Two years and $96 billion later and New Orleans still appears as if “the storm has just hit.” The report also states that over $1 billion has been wasted in fraud and abuse. Who is at fault Julia? Who cares and does not care about the people of New Orleans? Implying sanctity on the Left and evil on the Right doesn’t really add up, does it? So Julia, if Republicans are repugnant and reptilian what adjectives should we use to describe Democrats?