Sunday, December 22, 2013

Duck Dynasty - The Bright Side

Everyone wants to argue about the Duck Dynasty controversy, but I think it's important to recognize the positive aspect as well.  First, Phil Robertson has the right to say what he wants to say in regards to the Bible, homosexuals, and anything else.  Second, A&E has the right to fire Phil for what he says.  Third, people that watch A&E have the right not to watch it anymore, and we all have the right to criticize each other for what we think  about it one way or another.

Contrast the Duck Dynasty situation with how things are done in other countries. In Pakistan, a young girl (Malala Yousafzai) wanted to go to school. She didn't have the right to say that she wanted to go to school. When she said it anyway, she got shot.  Little girls going to school is not controversial in the United States, but even if it were, we wouldn’t shoot each other over it. 

So for all the controversy surrounding Duck Dynasty, to me, it's still important to realize that even in such a harsh disagreement, we are still just disagreeing instead of killing each other.  Hopefully, we can all see that’s a good thing.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The NSA and Civil Liberties - What's the deal pickle?

Let the Debate begin.

Should the government be able to track and know who we've called, when we've called, and how long we talked?  

Should the government know what websites we visit, who we email,  and what we email about?

Some say "YES, Absolutely".  It is critical to our safety.  Others say "No Way".  The government should not be spying on everyone in the Country and this doesn't help anyway.  

We don't know all the details yet, and probably never will.    We'll never know exactly what data is collected, how it's used, who has access, how is access tracked, etc., etc.

Therefore, since we're never going to get all the facts, I think the issue comes down to who has the "burden of proof".   By that I mean:

"The burden of proof (Latinonus probandi) is the obligation resting on a party in a trial to produce the evidence that will shift the conclusion away from the default position to one's own position."

If the Government has the "burden", as they do in criminal cases, then the default position is that this "data collection" or "spying" should not be occuring unless it is absolutely vital and necessary for our protection.  If the public, or at least the people who care about civil liberties, have the burden, then the default position is that its NOT OK, unless it's unnecessary or the government is somehow abusing the collected information.

Initially, our Republic was founded and established to distrust government.  That's why we have the Bill of Rights, the division of power between the Federal and State governments (at least we once did), and the checks and balances inherit in the three branches.

However, as the "nanny" state has emerged and grown, Americans have become more accustomed to government oversight, regulation, and control.  Recent polls on this subject indicate that most Americans don't care if the government collects this data.  Even Republicans are sharply divided over this issue.

Rand Paul believes the Government is overreaching, while John McCain and John Boehner believe the Government is well within its bounds by gathering this information.

What do you think?

Friday, May 31, 2013

A letter from Jefferson - Stay out of my relationship with God

Somethings can't be said better.  For that reason, I'm going to post a letter from Jefferson to a Mrs. Smith. The subject deals with some who criticize Jefferson based upon his religious beliefs. Some of the old phrases are awkward, but bear with it.

I have received, dear Madam, your very friendly letter of July 21st, and assure you that I feel with deep sensibility its kind expressions towards myself, and the more as from a person than whom no others could be more in sympathy with my own affections. I often call to mind the occasions of knowing your worth, which the societies of Washington furnished; and none more than those derived from your much valued visit to Monticello. I recognize the same motives of goodness in the solicitude you express on the rumor supposed to proceed from a letter of mine to Charles Thomson, on the subject of the Christian religion. It is true that, in writing to the translator of the Bible and Testament, that subject was mentioned; but equally so that no adherence to any particular mode of Christianity was there expressed, nor any change of opinions suggested. A change from what? the priests indeed have heretofore thought proper to ascribe to me religious, or rather anti-religious sentiments, of their own fabric, but such as soothed their resentments against the act of Virginia for establishing religious freedom. They wished him to be thought atheist, deist, or devil, who could advocate freedom from their religious dictations. But I have ever thought religion a concern purely between our God and our consciences, for which we were accountable to him, and not to the priests. I never told my own religion, nor scrutinized that of another. I never attempted to make a convert, nor wished to change another's creed. I have ever judged of the religion of others by their lives, and by this test, my dear Madam, I have been satisfied yours must be an excellent one, to have produced a life of such exemplary virtue and correctness. For it is in our lives, and not from our words, that our religion must be read. By the same test the world must judge me. But this does not satisfy the priesthood. They must have a positive, a declared assent to all their interested absurdities. My opinion is that there would never have been an infidel, if there had never been a priest. The artificial structures they have built on the purest of all moral systems, for the purpose of deriving from it pence and power, revolts those who think for themselves, and who read in that system only what is really there. These, therefore, they brand with such nick-names as their enmity chooses gratuitously to impute. I have left the world, in silence, to judge of causes from their effects; and I am consoled in this course, my dear friend, when I perceive the candor with which I am judged by your justice and discernment; and that, notwithstanding the slanders of the saints, my fellow citizens have thought me worthy of trusts. The imputations of irreligion having spent their force; they think an imputation of change might now be turned to account as a holster for their duperies. I shall leave them, as heretofore, to grope on in the dark.
Our family at Monticello is all in good health; Ellen speaking of you with affection, and Mrs. Randolph always regretting the accident which so far deprived her of the happiness of your former visit.
She still cherishes the hope of some future renewal of that kindness; in which we all join her, as in the assurances of affectionate attachment and respect.

I couldn't come close to saying things as well as Jefferson, so I won't try.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Enough about taxes - let's talk Death

You always hear the old saying "Nothing is certain but death and taxes".  Well, I'm all talked out on taxes, whether we should raise 'em, cut 'em, reform, revamp, reverse, flatten, or whatever.  Let's get on to something less depressing - death.

Death is all over the news.  Newtown school shootings, Boston Bombings, Fertilizer plants exploding, killer viruses, etc, etc.  Five minutes of a news program and everyone is afraid to leave the bathroom.  Very scary stuff, but what are the facts?  For that, I turn to the CDC (2010 data):

  • Number of deaths: 2,468,435
  • Death rate: 799.5 deaths per 100,000 population
  • Life expectancy: 78.7 years
  • Infant Mortality rate: 6.15 deaths per 1,000 live births

OK, well, I guess the good news is that 78.7 isn't all that bad.  But when we die, what kills us?  Terrorists, people with guns, or wild pit bulls?  Actually good old pneumonia kills more folks than any of the horrific things you hear about on TV.  In fact, more people kill themselves than are killed by other people. FACTS (again from the CDC):

Number of deaths for leading causes of death:

  • Heart disease: 597,689
  • Cancer: 574,743
  • Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 138,080
  • Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 129,476
  • Accidents (unintentional injuries): 120,859
  • Alzheimer's disease: 83,494
  • Diabetes: 69,071
  • Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis: 50,476
  • Influenza and Pneumonia: 50,097
  • Intentional self-harm (suicide): 38,364

So why all the news coverage about murder and mayhem?  Money.  News organizations today aren't concerned with informing you about relevant information for your life.  They want to make money, and they do that by selling ADs.  To sell ADs, they need you to watch.  No corporation is going to pay money to put an advertisement on a network or show that no one watches.   How do they get you to watch?  They scare you.  What's the best way to scare you - DEATH.

By the way, the official number of homicides for 2010 - 16,259.  More than twice as many people die at their own hand as die as the result of someone else's harmful intent.  So, if after watching the news you start to get worried that someone is about to kill you - statistically speaking, you better keep an eye on the person staring back at you in the mirror.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Term Limits - the cure for what ails us?

Despite whatever your political leanings actually are, almost everyone agrees that our government, especially at the federal level, is broke.   The Senate hasn't passed a budget in years, the Executive now portends the power to kill citizens at will without Due Process, and the Judiciary, well... no comment.

So is there a magical answer?  Many, and I for one, think there is - term limits. Our system is dysfunctional because many "came to do good - but stayed to do well".  Americans, regardless of political party affiliation or  age broadly support term limits for the U.S. House and Senate. Unfortunately most politicians don't support term limits.  As Thomas Sowell put it in his recent column:
"Those who oppose term limits express fears of having government run by amateurs, rather than by people with long experience in politics. But this country was created by people who were not career politicians, but who put aside their own private careers to serve in office during a critical time."
I submit to you that when more than 70% of a population as diverse as ours supports term limits, it's time for it to happen.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

It can happen here too

   Don't believe the nonsense you hear about taxes?   The thing you need to understand is that the government taxes us whenever it spends money.  Even though our tax rates are not the highest they have ever been, we are running the the largest deficits we have ever run.   If we don't get it under control, we will end up like Cypress.

   Without debate:

"The move to tax bank deposits is a first in the euro-zone crisis, and analysts fretted that the tax's wide scope and its sudden nature—banks are shut and Cyprus plans to deduct the levy before they reopen—could shake the currency bloc's wobbly confidence. On Monday, Cyprus put off parliamentary debate on the proposal until Tuesday, two days behind the original schedule, and said banks will remained closed until Thursday."
Cypress got into this mess because they failed to understand that Math isn't optional.  Sooner or later the US will be faced with a similar choice unless our government learns the same.