Tag Archives: Opinion

Right to Privacy

George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984 described the Government of Oceania, a country of perpetual war, around the clock government surveillance, and citizen mind control. It was a place watched over by Big Brother where you could be imprisoned for thought crimes. It’s a society of socialism where propaganda rules the airways and everyday is a lie. No right to privacy.

It’s nearly 30 years beyond 1984. You might think in a free society such as the USA constant government monitoring an a total loss of personal freedom is not possible.

Is it?

A blog ran at MSNBC yesterday, a  frightening report of privacy invasion and violation of our fundamental rights living in a free society. It is possibly an early volley in our journey to Oceania.

The headline read:

[box] Govt. agencies, colleges demand applicants’ Facebook passwords[/box]

It’s becoming common practice for employers and colleges to demand that applicants reveal their Social Media passwords during the interview process. In Maryland, applicants to the Department of Corrections are sat in front of a computer, told to access their Facebook account and allow the interviewer to look over their shoulder as they scan through wall postings, photos, videos and friend list.

Before the ACLU filed a complaint last year the Maryland DOC was asking applicants for their user name and passwords so they could scan your account at their leisure.

It seems the government isn’t letting something as simple as constitutional rights stand in the way of their thirst to invade your privacy.

It’s amazing to me that any free thinking American would think for a minute this was acceptable. I’m not convinced it’s even legal. There is such a thing as the First Amendment, right to privacy and free speech.

I’m going to be watching this one closely. The Patriot Act was just the beginning and the question is – where does it end?

Before it’s over I could be at the Minitrue rewriting history with Winston Smith at my side.

Election Year 2012

Every four years Americans line up against each other and go to battle over who’s the best guy to put in the White House. You all know the drill. It’s the Dems versus the Repubs, the left versus the right, this guy versus that guy, and for 2012 it’s Obama versus who knows.

Is it just me or is politics in our country a cross between mass hysteria and situation comedy?

This year you are going to need a scorecard to keep up with all the players. It’s not just the candidates anymore. No, that would be too simple. You have all these peripheral players to contend with. Everyone lining up with their mud-pots and pundits ready to trash the other players field. It’s political war of the ugliest kind and the main victim is the truth.

Between Huffington Post and Fox News, The Tea party and Occupy whatever, this year is going to be N-A-S-T-Y. News travels faster than the speed of Facebook and in the social media age, John Q. Citizen is engaged with in-your-face political positioning as never before.

Just the fact I am sitting here blogging about politics should tell you something. I hate politics with every millimeter of my rather open mind. I consider myself just right of center and from where I sit I can’t even see to the outer extremes of the right and left where this game is being played.

So buckle up tight, it’s going to be a bumpy ride. The mud is going to be flying back and forth like a ping-pong match. Sorting out the lies from the truth is going to be nearly impossible.

I don’t know about you but I can say with much assurance,  I’ve had about all the change I can stand.

Never Underestimate the Power of a Good Fedora

Bogart FedoraMen used to wear hats – all the time. Men in all fields, every working class stiff wore a hat. There were welding hats, baseball caps, driving hats, beanies, and an assortment of lids to fit every head on the planet. From Turbans to Top Hats it was all about the style.

And nobody styled and profiled any better than Humphrey Bogart. “Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.”

Bogie’s Fedora is a classic look that has been often imitated and never duplicated.

I’ve been thinking lately I need a Fedora. Maybe I can single-handedly bring hats back into vogue. Well, not alone. I’ll need help. I’ll need other men ready to throw back to a different age and show their Chapeau to the world.

“Here’s looking at you, lid.”

Casey Anthony Returns to Florida

Casey Anthony

Casey Anthony

The trial is over with an unpopular verdict. The most hated woman in America remains under the microscope, her every move subject to media attention. Today’s headline read:

Casey Anthony Reports for Probation in Florida

Anthony spent a good portion of Wednesday going over the terms of her probation with Florida Probation and Parole officials. The department originally stated they had no plans to make special provisions for Anthony. That was almost true. Under the terms of her probation she does not have to seek employment. Instead, Anthony will be going to school full-time online.

This is one of those things I have tried to not have an opinion about. Way too many people seemed to get way too emotional about this Casey Anthony verdict. Many of these people carrying, “Kill Casey Anthony” signs are probably nice, stable members of the community. The emotion and assumed miscarriage of justice was too much to swallow and it came out in a lynch mob mentality. In ways it was a reflection of the tragedy that got us to that Florida courtroom. Sadly, there is no justice for little Caylee and what’s funny is… after the not guilty verdict I haven’t heard one single person scream to find the real killer.

I like what the one juror said, “Not guilty does not mean innocent.”

If she was treated just like every other probationer in the system and had to find work, I don’t think she’d have a problem. I bet she would be the most popular stripper in the state.

Casey Athony

Woodstock – More than a Concert

I wasn’t there. In 1969 I was fifteen. I didn’t hear about Woodstock until it was well along. When I saw the films coming out of the Catskills, I probably said something like, “Far out, man.!”

I was already tuning up for the hippie generation. I had black-light posters on my wall and the obligatory black-light to go with them. I was already digging the music of many of the groups playing the festival. One of my favorite albums at the time was the Who’s Tommy.

At a half-million attendees, Woodstock become a microcosm of the generation. It was like the collective consciousness of everyone between the ages of 16 and 26. Sure there were a lot of drugs, and sex, and music, but beyond that Woodstock was an ideal. The spirit of the generation lived on long after Yasgur’s field returned to lush green pasture. It was called Woodstock Nation.

It was the philosophy of the hippie movement, a bohemian lifestyle, a connection to the Earth, the environment. For many it was about radical social change at a time when change of some sort was really needed. This country was split right down the backbone with young boys by the daily dozens being killed in Vietnam and an industrial-political machine run awry.

In its own way the generation began to find its voice. Echoing the words of The Who, “We’re not going to take it,” Woodstock Nation began to flex its voice and the counter-culture went mainstream.

July of the next year saw Atlanta’s own version of Woodstock at a small town nearly 100 miles south. Byron became the focal point for the next major gathering of the Woodstock nation and once again well over 500,000 came calling.

There was no way I was missing that one… but that’s another story.

Sunday, August 17 to Monday, August 18 – Woodstock Lineup

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KfGyylmR-aI]

Interested in the Interest?

Here’s a number for you. Be careful, it’s pretty big. It’s heavy and unwieldy. I have no idea what we are going to do with it. In many ways it’s actually kind of frightening.

In today’s climate of big numbers circulating around Washington, this one seems to have missed the evening news. I’ve never heard anyone bring it up. Maybe it’s that elephant in the room. Maybe it’s the family secret that nobody wants to talk about. You add all those commas up and what do you have?  $ 8.152 Trillion dollars. I could live pretty darn good on a one tenth of a  percent, a tiny fraction of that.

The reality is, I could live like royalty and fund a small island in the pacific for a very long time. I’d take my $81 Billion and call it a day.

You see Congress and those political types on Capital Hill seem to think “We the People” can’t wrap our minds around figures that high. They want to believe that the scope of a trillion is lost on us common folk. Let me show you what I am talking about…

That number up there — that is what “We the People” have spent in interest on the National Debt since 1988. Let me repeat that… We’ve dished out over $8 Trillion dollars in interest payments on our national debt since 1988. Assuming the US population is 312 Billion, each man, woman and child has kicked in over $26,000 into these interest payments. And that’s just the interest.  The debt just keeps growing. Which is exactly why we are where we are. And this isn’t about whose fault this is or who put us here.

Here’s a little food for thought. What could we have done with that money over the last couple of decades?

With $8 Trillion we could:

  • Fund the military budget for nearly 12 years
  • Pay the expenses of the Mayo Clinic for over 1,000 years
  • Fund the education for over 40 million children from grades 1-12
  • Build over 40 million houses for the homeless
  • Completely rebuild every bridge needing repair, resurface every section of the US Interstate system and have plenty left over to fund that High Speed Rail system the administration wants.
  • Completely fund the US Health Care system for well over three years.
Bill Gates is the second richest man in the world at a net worth of $56 billion. (0.0069 % of  this number)

I could go on but you should be getting the picture by now. We have a very serious problem. We are a financial prisoner of our debt and Congress is arguing about the need to add more. We are stealing money from our grandchildren and it is getting worse every day.

Stop the insanity! Instead of figuring out how to borrow more we have to find a way to pay off these commitments and become a debt-free nation. If it doesn’t stop we’ll be like the orphan Oliver standing at the world bank with our hands out saying, “Please sir, may I have some more?”

Imagine what we could do without the burden of debt. America could be great again instead of lining the pockets of foreign investors.

And in case you are wondering where I got this number:

http://www.treasurydirect.gov/govt/reports/ir/ir_expense.htm

More Whoppers or just Politics as Usual?

On June 3rd Obama said…

“And today, I’m proud to announce the government has been completely repaid for the investments we made under my watch by Chrysler because of the outstanding work that you guys did. Because of you. Chrysler has repaid every dime and more of what it owes the American taxpayer from the investment we made during my watch. And by the way, you guys repaid it six years ahead of schedule.”

Hmmmm…..

So what’s with this headline at the Huffington Post?

In Chrysler Bailout, Taxpayers Likely
To Lose Up To $1.3 Billion: Treasury

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/07/21/chryslerbailout

You have to dig into the words to find the financial shell game. Sounding much like a Used Car salesman, Barry was careful with the content of his speech. The key phrase — “Under my watch.” What that means is he is not counting the $4 billion given to Chrysler 18 days before taking office. (Source: FactCheck.org)

Now I don’t know if the Chrysler bailout was a good thing or not. I don’t know where the losses would have piled up to in the collateral of a total Chrysler meltdown. The job losses from plant closings and dealerships would’ve been extensive, not to mention the affect on other peripheral businesses.

I do know $1.3 Billion could have funded a lot of other stuff like three days in Afghanistan. But that’s a whole other topic!

Ode to the Chronically Unemployed

I just read this headline at one of the progressive news outlets.

“Jobless claims continue to drop.”

Sounds like really good news until I read into the body of the story — “US Weekly jobless claims, ending the week of 6/25, fell 1,000 to 428,000.” If I have the math right that is a drop of 0.23%, almost a quarter of 1%. The word that comes to mind is — negligible.

There is a dirty little secret the government is trying to contain and the media seems unwilling to really go after it.

Most engineers over 50 are underemployed or suffering from long term unemployment with no hopes on the horizon of finding full-time employment in their respective fields. This fact is hidden by a reporting system that fails to count ANY of the underemployed or the long term unemployed — the 99ers who have exhausted their unemployment assistance and have fallen off the accounting systems. Hard data on professional workers who are underemployed may very well be impossible to gather.

So the question is, this week as jobless claims fell 0.23%, how many people ran out of benefits with no hope of finding a job in the near future. The American dream has become the American nightmare.  Jobless claims may have fallen by 1,000 but 10,000 more may have lost their unemployment bennies. What do these people do in a system that ignores their existence?

The jobs situation in American is no less of a national disaster than Hurricane Katrina or the BP Oil Spill. The difference is there was a vigilant media, day after day continuing to talk about how bad it was, putting their cameras in the face of all levels of government and demanding ideas for solutions.

I just am not seeing that level of intensity over the issue of jobs. I suppose it just isn’t politically expedient because without answers it just keeps getting uglier.

And our government is incapable and unwilling to make the hard decisions on imports, immigration, infrastructure, human resources and education, that will have to be made to even begin to solve these problems.

And They’re Off…

It’s the equivalent of the evening news stakes race with your best thoroughbred at the gate. Monday night, in an understated debut, CBS quietly and firmly put the Katie Couric years behind them when veteran newsman Scott Pelley assumed his role as the face of CBS evening news. Pelley has rather large pumps to fill.

With Walter Cronkite, CBS News had a firm grasp on the number one slot, a position held until the Dan Rather years when ratings slipped and the network found itself in third behind NBC Nightly News and ABC World News.

Can Pelley revive the news franchise at CBS? Smart money is on the competition. Most industry experts believe Pelley lacks the pedigree to take CBS back to the front. He’s no Walter Cronkite, but then again he’s no Katie Couric either.

Mullen Mulls Cuts for Military Pay

Times are hard out there for the military. They are engaged on multiple fronts, many times fighting an enemy that can’t be seen, can’t be predicted, can’t be detected, and possibly can’t even be defeated. And at the same time suffering from the same budget difficulties stifling our economy, with one glaring difference. Workers for GM, GE, or The Department of Transportation aren’t getting shot at or blown up when they go to work. Our troops on the ground are.

Last Thursday The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral Mike Mullen, stated that it is likely service members will see their pay and benefits cut as the Pentagon works to trim a half billion dollars off their budget across the next dozen years. He warned against cutting hardware and programs while maintaining the increasing costs of paying and providing ongoing health care to active duty troops and retirees.

“Two of the big places the money is, is in pay and benefits,” Mullen told defense reporters at a June 2 breakfast meeting in Washington. “And so when I say all things are on the table, all things are on the table.”

That’s an easy observation to make for an Admiral hauling in nearly $150,000 a year in pay. Things get a lot tighter on the purse-strings for front line recruits who make in the $360 a week range… before taxes.

Record deficits and out of control spending for unaffordable programs seem to be off the radar for those that can do anything about them. The military industrial complex is the tail that wags the dog to the tune of nearly $1.4 trillion a year (including interest on the National Debt).

I think it’s high time the power centers of DC get their head out of the sand, or where ever their head happens to be, and start making the tough decisions that can slow this spending juggernaut before it consumes the livelihood of our children and grandchildren. Taking food off solider’s children’s tables is not the place to do it.

Yes, we need a strong defense, but we need to temper that with intelligent management. I think it has to start with pulling back our commitments in theaters of wars with no end in sight.  That’s the intelligent part. Stop throwing money away on pipe dreams and ghosts.

Pie Chart by: http://www.warresisters.org/pages/piechart.htm