Wednesday, April 02, 2008

New Powers for The Federal Reserve?

The Federal Reserve System is arguably one of the most powerful (and least understood) institutions in America. Treasury Secretary Paulson's recent suggestions that "The Fed" should be granted even more power is a dangerous step.

And what's even more scary is that so many editorial writers are saying that Paulson's plan does not go far the 'debate' so far has centered on whether we give the Fed "New Power," or "Lots of New Power."

I would suggest we give it NO new powers at all, and reign in some of the power it currently wields over our lives.

By way of background: There are many tools available to an administration to jump-start or safeguard an economy. Over the years, the federal government has tried direct government spending (FDR's Civilian Conservation Corps), borrowing (every adminstration since then), giving tax rebates and cuts to consumers, deregulating business, cutting business taxes, increasing direct aid to low-income people (Bush's extension of unemployment benefits, Social Security) and building transportation infrastructure. Some presidents have attmpted policies that were dismal failures (Nixon's gas rationing in the 1970s). And of course, it is certainly arguable that Government should *not* attempt to regulate the economy at all, but should get out of the way and stop messing it up natural markets.

What all of the above approaches have in common is that they are *highly* political. They require the chaos of Congressional, Presidential, and Bureaucratic action to happen. They involve log-rolling, and compromise, and committees and all sorts of political machinations. And if you're looking for results, that's not a very effective way to run an economy.

The Federal Reserve System was designed to function quite differently.

The philosophy behind the Fed is to masage the economy through a professional banking system. The Feds, rather than responding to voters, have historically responded to numbers, and made objective decisions. This is the body that sets the Discount Rate (the interest rate at which they lend money to member banks, thus influencing general interest rates). They determine the ratio of deposits that banks must keep on hand in case of a 'run' on the bank. And in New York, the Fed buys and sells government bonds in order to inject cash into the economy or withdraw it to slow down easy credit. By all accounts, The Fed is a conservative, staid, professional group of bankers that responds to bottom lines, not the whims of voters who want goodies for their district or the passion of politicians seeking reelection.

In fact, the Fed is very, very insulated from politics. Their 7 member Board of Governors is appointed by the President with the consent of the Senate, but they each serve 14 year terms. One is up for reappointment every 2 years, which effectvely means that even a two-term president can not realistically change the makeup of the majority of Governors. Even if he could, it wouldnt matter that much, because the Regulatory functions of the Fed reside in something called the "Open Market Committeee," which consists of the 7 Governors plus 5 regional, private Fed Bank presidents (there are 12 District Fed banks. Each is a private bank, with its own Board of Directors). By design, there is NO Federal Reserve Bank in Washington, DC. All in all, it is a very decentralized system, independent from most government oversight, which operates within the banking community. Unless there is a crisis, they only meet once every 6 weeks (which they did during the Great Depression, and right after 9/11)

Under Ben Bernanke, the Fed has taken some 'wild' steps. In one case, it called two meetings only 3 days apart from each other. It has dropped the discount rate precipitously. It has stepped in to private markets to arrrange a takeover of Bear Stearns by Citicorp at a price of $2/share, destroying shareholders values (and their pensions). Fortunately, that deal that is unravelling now that Morgan Stanley has offered $10 a share. Bear Stearns is a private investment house, not a bank, and the Fed had no direct authority in the matter. .

And now, Secretary Paulson has made some 'minor' suggestions to give the Fed more such authority. His proposal would give sweeping new authority to Fed to collect data and regulate private investment houses in prder to 'stabilize markets.'

But the Fed was designed to stabilize the value of *currency* by regualting member banks. It was never meant to make decisions about business practices of non-banks, or regulate private stock transactions or financing instruments.

And that's a big, big change, and a problem for a country that calls itself a democracy.

The Fed has always walked a fine line: It's greatest strength is that it is non-political, so it can be an effective and efficient institution in protecting the economy. But its greatest weakness is that it is undemocratic, and unresponsive to the voters. It exists on its own, high above the fray. Therefore, it was given very limited authority. Paulson's plans destroy that balance.

First, it takes an institution which is the nations *only* non-political approach to the economy and drops it squarely in the middle of the political arena by giving it regulatory authority over private businesses outside of its own banking system. The political pressure on the Fed to 'save' certain companies 'assets' at the expense of others will be enormous.

Second, it gives increased regulatory authority over private transactions to an institution that is essentially unanswerable to the political process. In other words, we are creating a new branch of government, with power and authority, that is not answerable to voters, or to congress, or to any democratic process whatsoever; the Fed would become Power without any check or balance, Authority without any accountability to the citizens.

If Investment houses need to be regulated, an agency (The Securities and Exchange Commisson) is already in place. If Predatory lenders need to be more tightly regulated, all 50 state legslatures have the authority to do that, and Fraud statutes exist that can be used or strengthened through the legislative process. If poor business decisions cause a business to go under, taxpayers should not be forced to prop it up (Why is it that failing businesses always want taxpayer money to help them when they fail, but they never feel that their profit should be distributed to taxpayers when theymake a profit? Hmmm........)

Paulson's plan is not a 'small step.' This is the continuing eviscerating of the Republic's Constitution.

But then, we should have come to expect that from this administration.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

NY Governor Eliot Spitzer and a Prostitution ring....

I have never liked Eliot Spitzer. The Governor of New York was too much of a crusader, the kind who dribbles saliva from the mouth as he's torturing Evil Opponents. And for Spitzer, going after anyone who traded Securities or had a large bank account was his passion. He was dubbed "Mr. Clean" for being the Knight in Shining Armor. But no one knew the Knight was riding around bareback with the courtesans of the land.

His is, ironically, a common story.

- Governor Spitzer, "Mr. Clean," found paying a prostitute over $4,000 for a four hour session.

- Ted Haggard, president of the National Association of Evangelicals and anti-homosexual crusader, found paying for gay sex for over three years.

- Paul Crouch, founder of the world's largest Christian broadcasting outlet, the Trinity Broadcasting Network which also espouses a Gay-is-Evil message, currently locked in a tiff with the Reality Show "Lie Detector," as a former employee, Enoch Ford, submitted to a polygraph regarding a supposed gay sexual relationship witn Crouch...and revealing a $425,000 payment made to him after he was fired from the Network.

- Roger Clemmons, baseball hero, dogged and hounded by congressmen determined to know if he used steroids of HGH during his spectacular career.

- Cicero (Chicago area) Police Commander Wesley Scott, a 21-year veteran of the force who sent up many a young man for illegal drug possession, is himself charged with burning a marijuana joint (and a whole bag of the weed) after being stopped by another officer. (The department was kind enough to let him take four personal days before adminstering a drug test, to give him time to clean out his system. The Blue Code lives...)

There are *so many* issues to look at here:

1) WHY are we so obsessed with creating heroes that are unrealistic? "Heroes" are NOT perfect. They are human and fallible. Give me a movie hero who is uncertain, imperfect, and flawed, and you've got a real hero. Give me some self-righteous, pontificating know-it-all, and I want to throw up. Dubbing Spitzer, "Mr. Clean" was an impossible standard to throw at him.

2) WHY are those who are so damned strident in their crusades so often hiding the very vices they appear to want to eradicate? Do they believe that if they ruthlessely pursue all the 'other' bad guys, that they will not have to admit to themselves that, they, too, engage in the same activities?

Find me a man who is strident in his hatred of gays, and who knows every Bible verse condemning them, and is obsessed with preaching it, and I will show you a drowning man who is desperate to avoid the truth of his own orientation.

3) WHY do we revel in disaster? Why do we *love* it when the media build someone up to a point of being worshipped, and then enjoy the gossip, innuendo and tales that accompany their eventual destruction?

Thiry years ago, folk singer Phil Ochs wrote these words in his song, "Crucifixion:"

"And you say you can't believe it,
It's a sacriligious shame,
Now who would want to hurt
such a hero of the game?
But you know, I predicted it,
I knew he had to fall.
How did it Happen?
I hope is suffering was small.
Tell me every detail,
'Cuz I've got to know it all,
And do you have a picture of the pain?"

4) But most of all, maybe we should be looking *not* at the hypocrisy of these guys, or the Build-them-up, Tear-Them-Down sport of the media....but at our own expectations and requirements.

This country has been affected by a knee-jerk Puritanical streak since our inception. We put people in stocks and made them wear scarlet "A's," not because they hurt anyone, but because we didnt like their personal choices and to expose them to public ridicule.

Spitzer didn't steal anyone's money or property. He didnt assault, maim, or hurt anyone. Outside of his family relationships (which is his own private matter), who has been hurt by his dalliance with a prostitute?

No One.

Should Spitzer resign? No.
Should Clemmons lose his place in history? No.
Should Officer Scott go to jail for smoking pot? No.

Instead of pointing at their hypocrisy, maybe we should point at our own: We are a nation where a majority of a generation has smoked pot, and yet we put people behind bars for smoking pot. We are a nation where the majority has had multiple sexual partners, yet we consider it a 'disgrace' when it is brought to light.

Time to cast off our Puritanical ball and chain. Legalize recreational drug use, legalize prostitution, legalize all activities that hurt no one.

And then decide that its none of our business anyway who someone sleeps with or what drugs they take, and move on to more serious issues.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Re-thinking jails, prisons, and crime....

News Items:

"...More than one in every 100 American adults are in jail or prison, according to a recent study by the Pew Center for the States, which also found that about half of released inmates return to jail or prison within three years..."

"...The U.S. prison population, the world's largest, has grown nearly eightfold over the past 35 years and now costs taxpayers at least $60 billion a year..."

"A stunning one in nine black males between the ages of 20-34 is behind bars... Prison culture has become a norm in some urban neighborhoods, with more than 600,000 people a year returning home from prison and jails. They come back poorly educated, lacking job skills, and socially and legally disabled by felony records. One in 14 African-American children has a parent who is incarcerated..."

What should we conclude from these news reports? That Americans are law-breakers? That society has fallen apart and everyone is a thief and a murderer? We've gone to hell in a handbasket? How is it that there are more people living behind bars in America than in bigger authoritarian regimes like China?

Perhaps it has less to do with the activities of our citizens than with a societal inclination to 'throw away the key.' In other words, its not "them," it's "we" who are the problem.

From the earliest colonial days, we have had a penchant for making an example of others and punishing them for life choices. From sitting in the stocks for playing games on Sunday to wearing a scarlet letter for committing adultery, there has always been an undercurrent in American society (often based in religous belief) that

(1) 'Punishment' is the appropriate response to "bad actions;" and
(2) Morally "bad" choices are bad actions that must should be punished.

The circus surrounding the steroids-in-sports hearings is a prime example. There are no 'victims' if any of these guys used steroids, but many feel that such a 'moral outrage' must be investigated, dissected, and broadcast, and the users 'brought to justice.'

In the last decade, 6.5 million Americans have been arrested on marijuana charges alone. In 2006, 738,915 Americans alone were arrested for simple marajuana possession (constituting 81% of drug arrests), not some major hard-core mob operation. Even the Justice Department has determined that people sentenced for drug crimes accounted for 21% of state prisoners and 55% of all federal prisoners.

As states grapple with ever-expanding prison needs (and budgets), surely it is time to look at WHO is being incarcerated, WHY they are being incarcerated, and the RESULTS of that incarceration.

Have we created a situation where the costs of imprisonment outweigh the benefits?

And even worse, are the dangers to individuals an society from rampant imprisonment worse than the dangers from the "crime" committed?!

The criminal justice system is broken NOT because its 'too easy,' on criminals, but because

(1) It doesnt compensate real victims;
(2) it destroys the life of the defendent and his/her family;
(3) it jails those who have not hurt anyone simply because we want to impose morality on them (drugs, prostitution);
(4) it teaches amateur thieves how to be professional criminals,
(5) It burdens taxpayers with an enormous tax bill for prison construction and operation
(6) it has created a vested interest group (prison workers, and private and government-run prisons with vested interests in maintaining and expanding the system);
(6) It dumps men and women out on the street after their jail terms with NO skills, NO money, and a criminal record, virtually guarenteeing their inability to re-integrate into society.

A better system?

(1) No victimless crimes. It is time to end imprisonment for drug use and related crimes. A New Hampshire House subcommittee just voted 13-1 to recommend decriminalizing marajuana. If it passes, New Hampshire would become the 13th state in a growing movement to take this step. Interestingly, Rep. John Tholl (R-Whitefield), the police chief of Dalton, chaired the subcommittee and voted in favor.

(2) Where there is a clear victim, resurrect the old notion of BondService where appropriate (OK, "community Service" and "Working off your crime" sounds better. But its the same thing). The BondService "company" (this could be a private or a public entity) would pay the victim restitution up front; in return, it would assume 'ownership' of the criminals labor, and assume responsibility for his/her living conditions (a 'company' apartment, for which rent is charged, or house arrest are both options). This avoids taxpayer housing and prison construction expense. The 'company" would then train the convict in a skill, put him to work, and in the end release him with a skill and start up money. Since the victim is automatically compenstated in such a system, it may reduce the number of civil suits attempting to collect the same, this reducing backlogs in courts.

Sound pollyana?

Not if you've seen the Maine State Prison System's furniture outlet store in Thomaston, where inmates are trained in woodworking and other craftwork and earn money towards their keep while establishing a savings account for their own use upon release.

Not if यू've seen Norways system, which routinely combines home arrest and work-release training programs.

In other words, elements of this system are already in place and working. But we continue to lock up people that we think are 'bad'...and forget about them and the consequences.

Every prisoner is someone's son or daughter. And often someone's mom or dad. They are people, not refuse. The goal should be to safeguard society - and no one is 'safeguarded' by locking up a young man's father for 10 years for an offense that hurt no one. The 'remedy' now creates more probems than the crime, as we create a fatherless generation of children and an embittered generation of middle-aged 'criminals.'


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Hallmark/Westland Meat recall: Blind Hysteria

To date, 37,000,000 lbs of meat, sold in 36 states, over the course of 2 years, has been recalled।
That's a lot of meat. Meat used in school lunch programs, meat sold in supermarkets. The largest recall in US food history. And I have just one question:


Of the millions of pounds in circulation (most of which has already been consumed), not one person reported getting sick.

Not one of the thousands of cows that entered the slaughterhouse was ever diagnosed with an illness that is transmissable to human beings through consumption.

So why the hysteria and recall?

Nasty videotapes. Videos that upset us, because cows were shown to be lame, or being dragged or pushed with forklifts. For anyone with a heart for animals, the tape was upsetting.

But that doesnt mean that the public is at danger.

Every serious economist knows that Perfection is not an option in any endeavor. In huge corn silos, an occasional mouse will turn up and ground up along with the corn. In fields of broccoli, an occasional worm might get ground up with the veggies before being thrown into the frozen food aisle. That is the reality of life; and while it might make us squeamish, it is not a legitimate reason for society to incur enormous costs in an effort to 'make the icky go away.'

Even if the video showed 100 lame cows, that is a drop in the bucket compared to the volume of meat processed at that plant over the years. Even if the cows were diseased (as opposed to lame), there is no evidence that they carried diseases that could be contracted by humans. And two years after the incident, no one has reported any outbreak of illness attributable to this plant or lot of meat.

Slaughterhouses are not pleasant places. They smell awful, and are pits of blood and hair and warm organ smells...and generally pretty sickening places to the uninitiated. But our revulsion at them should not be the basis of sound decision-making.

The costs of this recall are astronomical, and widespread: the meat company is not the only one incurring those costs. Retail outlets and wholesalers must scour their product and pull them from the shelves. Schools must do the same. And as the stock of meat decreases, you an expect all consumers to end up paying more for meat becasue of the constricted supply.

And the benefit of all this?

Well, you can't say that the benefit of the action is to prevent human sickness...since there wasn't any human sickness, or even a likelihood of it, to begin with.

The only benefit is that we get to assuage our consciences at brutal slaughterhouse practices. We get to 'make the icky go away..'

Politicians will beat their breasts and call for stronger government regulation and inspections, and we will once again hand over power to the federal government to Make Things Right.

And once again, we will value Style and Symbol over substance.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

On Kosovo Independence Day - Happy Birthday, Kosova!

My first 'contact' with Kosova (the Albanian spelling) came in the form of its people. As a teacher, I had a very diligent, hard-working, polite young man in my class who was a recent immigrant to the United States. He was struggling through the language barrier to work full-time and get a college degree while supporting his sister and parents. I learned that they had fled from Kosova into Macedonia as refugees. And I listened to his stories of the horrors of ethnic cleansing that forced his family to flee.

It is indeed an unexpected nexus of forces: the United States and Europe, both societies with Christian roots, have been protecting a small enclave of Muslim Kosovars against the political claims of Christian (Orthodox) Serbians, during a time when Muslims are often seen as the enemies of western civilization.

I have been interested in the region for several reasons. First, as a teacher, I was invited to teach summer courses at the University of Pristina in the capital city. Secondly, as an Orthodox Christian, my 'church circle' consisted of Balkan peoples: Serbs, Greeks, Romanians, and Russians, many of whom passionately criticized NATO, the EU, and the US for being involved in helping the ethnic Albanians (and Muslims) of Kosova. I spent a lot of time on the internet, on chat boards, and in actual conversations trying to sort through the hate and passion that would flare every time mention of an independent Kosova would be mentioned.

One of the 'constants' in these conversations was the reflexive attempt by Serbs and Serb-sympathizers (who want continued Serb domination over the region) to go back to medieval history, and wax eloquent about the Ottoman Empire, the birthplace of Serbian nationalism in the Kosovo region, the fall of the Byzantine empire...and any other historical facts that could be mustered from 700 years ago to cement a claim to the land.

Internationally, only Putin's authoritarian (and Orthodox) Russia supports this approach. It is laughable on its face: In what other international conflict would anyone seriously consider the events of the medieval era? Should Britain have a claim to Normandy? Should Switzerland be divided and given over to a Neo-Swabian empire? Should the Vikings re-assert claims for the Scottish Isles and coastal Ireland? Should the Teutonic Knights be given title to Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania? The notion of asserting political claims by resorting to medieval land claims is preposterous anywhere in Europe...and yet, for many Serbophiles, memories last verrrrry long. The reality is that in present history, the Serbs dominated other ethnic groups in the now-defunct nation of Yugoslavia. With a penchant for fascist authoritarianism, Serbian leaders have carried out atrocity after atrocity against non-Serbs, especially Bosnian and Albanian Muslims. One million ethnic-Albanians have fled for their lives...and 11,000 were murdered and dumped into mass graves which dot the countryside. Over three dozen such graves have been located.
No wonder Democrat Bill Clinton and Republican George W. Bush have both sided with the NATO forces in support of the Kosovars. The Serbian fascists were no less brutal in their extermination of Kosovars than was Saddam Hussein in his attacks on the Kurds. And its scary to note that the extreme nationalistic Serbs *still* receive up to 40% of the vote in Serbian elections...and they continue to hide war criminals and defend the actions of Serb paramilitary death squads.
The Orthodox Churches, which have been vocal in the United States in opposing military action, are oddly silent on the militarism of their Serbian branch. The most extreme reaction came from the head of the Serb Orthodox Church in Kosovo, Bishop Artemije, who denounced the Serbian armed forces for doing nothing."Serbia should buy state of the art weapons from Russia and other countries and call on Russia to send volunteers and establish a military presence in Serbia," he said.
(It should be noted that Serbian Orthodox monks have stood out as lights of conscience as they have helped hids and protect Muslim Albanians during this time).
As I discussed these recent historical events online, I obviously upset some Serbs. They emailed me pictures of severed heads to show me who I was fooling around with.
But I am not intimidated that easily.
It is widely expected that Kosova will declare independence in less than 24 hours. Good for them....whenever freedom wins, it is a win for all of humanity. Happy Birthday, Kosova!

Monday, January 07, 2008

How Ron Paul blew it in New Hampshire

I will vote for Ron Paul on Primary day here in New Hampshire. I have been a Ron Paul fan for a very long time. But he and his supporters have snatched defeat out of what could have been a stunning showing, and its a shame.

The Republican Party has lost its principles and its soul. The GOP used to be the party of low taxes, fiscal responsibility, states rights, and a small-is-better philosophy when it came to the federal government. The Bush Empire has turned all that on its head, running up fantastic deficits, enacting Steel Tariffs, imposing No Child Left Behind on the states, and strengthening the power of the federal government to unprecedented levels through the Patriot Act and related provisions. Surely, somewhere, some Republican must be willing to stand up and declare that the Good Guys have actually morphed into the Evil Empire. For his entire career, Ron Paul has stood squarely in the true liberty-loving tradition of the Republican Party. And for that reason, I will cast my vote for Ron Paul in the Primary.

He has raised mind-blowing amounts of cash on the internet, drawing on the passion of the younger generation that tends to live on the net. But his numbers are not catching on much past the 10% mark in polls, even here in libertarian New Hampshire. Why is that?

Its not because of a media blackout. It's not because of a conspiracy against him.

It's because with all the issues he could have chosen to seize on, he chose the wrong ones: Immigration and The Federal Reserve System.

Someone needs to inform the political operatives that no one here in New Hampshire cares much about immigration. It's a virtual non-issue. New Hampshire is about as far from Mexico as you can get and still be on American soil. The immigrants who do arrive are by and large French-Canadian, and have been part of the New Hampshire social fabric for several hundred years. Further, all of the Republican candidiates are tripping over themselves trying to be the most mean-spirited, anti-immigration candidate...and no one here cares. Worse, Ron Paul is unable to differentiate himself from the pack on this issue. And even more troublesome, is that his position represents a retreat from the libertarian notion of greater freedom and less government.

Worse still is the near obsession that Dr.Paul and his followers have surrounding the Gold Standard and the Federal Reserve System. Dr. Paul has called for the abolition of the federal Reserve and a return to the gold standard. The more I hear him talk about this issue, the more convinced I become that he truly does not understand what he is talking about:

Dr. Paul has staked out this position because of the deblitating effect that inflation has on household savings. And he is correct: inflation destroys savings and value. What he doesnt seem to understand is that the United States has not seen high inflation in generations, and that is due largely to the effectiveness of the Federal Reserve Bank.

Every industrialized nation in the world has a "Central Bank." Most third world countries do NOT. Nations with these central banks experience low inflation (rarely double digits). In fact, the US inflation rate has been a mere 2% to 5% over the last few decades. (The seventies were an exception). Meanwhile, third-world nations without a central bank regularly experience inflation of 30%, 80%, 100%, or more.

The Role of the Federal Reserve System is to control inflation. They have done it, admirably. Authority for the System lies in the Constitution's clause giving the Federal Government the right to coin money.

The falling value of the US Dollar (which Dr. Paul has lamented) has been GOOD for New Hampshire: it means that the Chinese, and the Europeans, and next-door Canadians can now afford to purchase US goods, helping the manufacturing, retail, and tourism sectors upon which the New Hampshire economy is based. Ron Paul's lament about the falling value of the US Dollar carries little weight here: Retailers saw more Canadians crossing the border to buy US goods than ever before, *because* of the falling US Dollar.

And no one gives a crap about the Federal Reserve except college-aged idealists. Yup, that's right. Here in New Hampshire, people are concerned with fuel oil prices, health insurance, social security and pensions, jobs, and taxes.

Ron Paul could speak powerfully to Granite Staters about issues that are important to them. Instead, he has been sidetracked by non-issues.

And as a result, pragmatic New Hampshire voters will select John McCain (who is *not* seeking to be THE anti-immigration candidate), and who's frank talk about REAL issues resonates well with this state.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Once Again...Steroids and Baseball in the News. (When will the Neo-Puritans give it a rest?)

According to the New York Times, “…Former Sen. Mitchell's 300-plus page document on performance-enhancing drugs in baseball, 21 months in the making, claims that nearly 90 players -- most notably Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, Barry Bonds, Gary Sheffield and Miguel Tejada -- are guilty of using some form of PEDs.” [Perfomance Enhancing Drugs]

When Mark Magwire was hounded by the press for using Androstendione ( a substance that was legal and sold over the counter in Golds Gyms, GNCs, and Drug Stores across America), it was easy to point the finger an “One Bad Guy.” When Barry Bonds was fingered as a steroid user, the writers at Sports Illustrated (sports nuts who cant play, but who delight in the catty process of creating legends and then destroying them) frothed at the mouth, issue after issue, because they could crucify One Bad Guy.

But, now it appears that steroids have appeared in major league baseball across the spectrum of teams. Surprise, surprise.....

TWO YEARS AGO I wrote about the prevalence of steroids in sports, and also proposed that it really is Not a crisis in need of ‘fixing.’ I know I went against the flow by writing that. But I maintain my stand, and repeat what I wrote then:

“…Sitting on my shelf is a bottle of ProLab ThermaPro, a thermogenic designed to raise metabolism and help burn fat. I used this (same basic ingredients as the old Hydroxycut and Xenadrine) several summers ago, while running in the hot Dakota sun every morning while trying to lose weight and tone up (mission: successful!). Ah, but this product contains ephedrine!!! [crowd gasps in horror in the background.] When I used it in 2002, I was using a sports supplement. When the FDA banned it last year (in 2004), I became the possessor of an illegal substance. When the Court overturned the FDA ban, I was an upstanding citizen again. Then the FDA declared that my 20 mg ephedrine was greater than the amount in the court case, and was illegal, and presto-chango, I’m a criminal again.

And this has been the history of steroids and sports supplements. The non-steroidal Androstendione which was available in every health and vitamin store a few years ago, all of a sudden disappeared because the FDA arbitrarily decided that since it was only “one step away” from a steroid, it is now illegal. However, DHEA, which is two steps away from a steroid, is still OK (for now…stock up while supplies last….)The steroids that Jose Canseco mentions being used in MLB were by and large completely legal in 1980. Many of them are still legal in much of the world, including industrialized nations such as Germany and Holland. Some (Fina) can be made of 100% legal substances in your kitchen. Others are legal as veterinary substances.

The history of Sports is the history of going the extra mile and being slightly better than anyone and everyone else. Athletes give up much of their personal lives and incur a great personal cost in training. They regulate what they eat. They take vitamin supplements such as Calcium. They take Glutamine to prevent muscle breakdown. They take Milk Thistle and ALA to keep their livers healthy. They take Glucosomine to help repair their stressed joints, and if they’re in trouble, they get shots from their doctors. Some take “stacks” to raise metabolism and speed weight-loss (like my illegal aspirin-caffeine-ephedrine stack). They use Creatine as a muscle volumizer and NO2 to increase muscle pump, while downing extra-heavy whey-protein isolate shakes to increase food to muscle cells. Somewhere along the line Congress is going to find out that many use insulin to increase food nutrition entering the muscle cells as well. Some use 2-step-away prohormones like DHEA, others used 1-step-away-prohormones.’

And yes, some use steroids.

Yes, the bar is constantly raised. In the effort to be bigger, better, stronger, greater. And if anyone thinks that taking steroids means you take a pill and you’re suddenly Hulk, they are sadly misinformed. Guys who take steroid injections and just ‘wait’ for the effects find themselves fat and tired. An athlete who has chosen to use steroids will be working his butt off 5-6 days a week in grueling workouts. There is no ‘free ride’ by using steroids.

It is amazing, isn’t it? If someone goes to Beverly Hills and forks over $10,000 to a surgeon to have 40 pounds of lard sucked out of their gut in a two-hour operation, that is not only legal, it’s indicative of being One of the Beautiful People. But if you work your tail off during a 12-week steroid cycle to reduce your body fat from 15% to 6% through arduous workouts, well…..”that’s illegal! That’s immoral! That’s just not right!!!! We must punish baseball players!”

Actually, it seems a hell of a lot more honest to me.Of course, why stop at baseball players? Does anyone really believe thatfthe models on the cover of Mens fitness magazines get that way from situps and spinach? Have they asked the Governor of California how he got that big? Wake up, folk: when you outlaw a substance, you don’t make it go away….you make it go underground. Anyone remember Prohibition?

What’s more important, is that no one has been able to tell me just who is so harmed by an individual athlete’s choice to juice that it requires federal robocops. Have these sports figures killed anyone? Assaulted anyone? Robbed anyone? Maimed anyone? Can you point to any damage they have caused? ?

There are those who will say that when young people emulate these guys, they are hurt. But that’s like saying that NASCAR should be responsible for kids who drive fast , that McDonalds should be responsible for obese slobs who sit and eat Big Macs every day, and that Clint Eastwood should be responsible for a kid who shoots someone.

If the Players are upset, or the union, or the fans, or the owners, they have immediate remedies and avenues. If they have chosen not to pursue them, perhaps Congress should realize they’re barking up the wrong tree.We don’t need Congress to decide who should be and shouldn’t be our sports heroes. We’ll do that for ourselves, thank you..”


Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Massachusetts Highway Bureaucrat is Clueless...

My award for the most ridiculous, petty, ivory-tower Fiat pronounced by a Bureaucrat goes to Louisa Paiewonsky, the Massachusetts Highway Commissioner, who has determined that signs, flags, ribbons, and sheets welcoming troops home must all come down from highway overpasses.

The welcome-home signs have sprung up all over Massachusetts (as well as other parts of the country.) Home-made and heartfelt, they are a visible reminder of the Human connection between troops serving halfway around the world and the communities and families that anxiously await their return.

But, according to Ed Abell of the MHD, "Homemade signs and other items posted on overpasses pose a potential safety hazard to vehicles on roadways..."

Yeah, well deer crossing the road, branches blowing off of trees, and distracting commerical signs 'pose a potential safety hazard.' But Perfection and Utopia are not options. "Safety" is NOT the issue - everyone agrees that highways should be safe. The question is, "How much safer will the highway be by taking this action...and at what cost?"

MHD has yet to offer a *single* instance of a yellow ribbon, or a flag, or a sign flying off the overpass and causing an accident. By contrast, many instances of deer crosing the road and falling/blowing tree branches *have* caused accidents. By MHDs reasoning, the trees along the Highways should be leveled - because after all, they are a 'potential' safety hazard. (I'm sure that would go over well with the Executive Office of Environmental Affairs....)

And its not surprising that these welcome home banners have stayed put - after all, the people placing them there have a vested interest in making sure they are readable, secure, and can withstand the elements. They *want* the signs to remain and be visible. No one pours their heart and soul into one of these signs and then does a half-ass job affixing it to a fence on an overpass in a haphazard manner.

The degree of bureaucratic presumption - and cluelessness - is best displayed by the MHD's own suggestions for 'alternatives.' They have offered to place Generic, state-approved signs in Rest Areas.

MHD specifically opposes 'home-made' signs - suggesting, with incredible arrogance, that the State can somehow do a better job of making a "Welcome Home, Daddy!' sign than a soldiers' family. It also completely escapes them that the purpose of the sign is NOT simply to convey Formal Information ("Have Your Passports Ready, Please take your LapTop out of its Case, and Welcome Home Soldiers...') Rather, it is a human expression of hope and thanks and wishfulness and prayer and longing...something no Bureaucracy can even begin to express.

You would think that with the crazy placement of a traffic light on Rte 2 around a blind bend near Fitchburg, multiple lane crossings at the merger of Storrow Drive Eastbound and Interstate 93, A Pandoras Box of forks on Soldiers Field Road, and a minefield of jersey barriers on any given block in Worcester, that Mass Highway would have something real to worry about.

Guess they'd rather pick a battle they think they can win.....

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Emotion and Bad Law: The Snyder v. Westboro (Phelps) verdict

So, the US District Court (Baltimore) has awarded Albert Snyder $10.9 million dollars. The verdict came against the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka Kansas, a fundamentalist cult operated by the Fred Phelps family. Phelps is well-known for his anti-homosexual rantings, which he takes to an extreme: in the current case, he and his church members protested outside the funeral of Lance Cpl. Mathhew Snyder, a young soldier who died in Iraq in March 2006. Phelps and his minions regularly protest around the country carrying signs that proclaim, "God Hates Fags" and "God Hates America." They believe that the carnage in Iraq is God's condemnation on the United States for this country's toleration of homosexuality. The dead soldiers father (Albert) sued for emotional distress, and won.

Emotional issue. Terrible Verdict.

I agree, Phelps is a madman. A raving lunatic. An obsessed crusader. His antics are disgusting. His mere appearance at these funerals is disgusting, despicable, heartless, and mean-spirited. His theology is off the wall.

It is also protected by the US Constitution.

That speech which is most abhorrent is precisely that speech that must be protected.

If we begin to punish speech which is heartless and meanspirited, we have started down a slippery slope. Does that mean that members of the US Nazi party should *not* have the right to parade, if it upsets Jewish residents or holocaust survivors? Does it mean that racists should no longer have the right to give political speeches if it upsets a black citizen who remembers the days of southern lynchings?

Lets take it further: Does it mean that cities should be able to ban Gay Pride parades and festivals because it deeply offends its religious citizens? Think about this, we really want to punish and ban and fine speech that is found to be 'offensive?'

Once we say that offensive speech is not protected speech, we have destroyed the very concept of Freedom of Speech. What Phelps does is repugnant, and he is properly vilified in the media for his nonsense. Frankly, I wouldnt even mind if someone decked him. I might even be tempted to deliver the blow myself....

But the government must not punish offensive speech - or we *all*in trouble - especially those of us who find ourselves in minority communities.

The verdict does not mean that the Snyders will receive compensation. the Church and the Phelps' will assuredly hide most of their assets, if they have any. But it does cast one more dangerous precedent that will come back to hurt us all. 9/11 became an excuse for chipping away at civil liberties.. We now readily engage in the very activities we used to chide the Soviet Union for (warrantless wiretaps, secret prisons, torture, passports requirements, Real ID). The banning of 'offensive' speech is simply one more step down the road towards a totalitarian society.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

A Random Collection of my Favorite Quotes

"Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming, "Wow - What a ride!'"

"Forgiveness is usually easier than permission"

"There's only now, there's only this, forget regrets, or life is yours to miss..." (from Rent)

"They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security" (Ben Franklin)

"The Market will always prevail over the Law."

"I'm a Libertarian. I'd like to get the Republicans out of my bedroom, and the Democrats out of my wallet."

"The only difference between guys in jail and us is that they got caught and convicted."

"In all numerous assemblies, of whatever characetr conposed, passion never fails to wrest the sceptre from Reason." (James Madison)

"But what more oft in Nations grown corrupt, and by their vices brought to servitude, Then to love bondage more than Liberty, Bondage with ease then strenuous Liberty."
(John Milton; Samson Agonistes,1671;lines 268 - 271 )

If I Was Inside Out
Barnes & Loudboy

If I was inside out
Would you love me like you do?
If I was inside out

If you could see my heart
And the Truth was in plain view
If I was Inside Out

I peel back the layers and lies and disguises
Open my soul to the light of your eyes


If you enter to the very heart of me
Would you understand the ugly mess you’d see?
See my anger, feel my passion
Burning raw like the sun deep inside

I was Inside Out
If you looked into my face,
Would you have to turn away?

Would you know what I’m about?
Could you stand and swallow truth?
If I was Inside Out?

I peel back a lifetime of lies and disguises
Open my heart to the light of your eyes


All my Skin & bones,
Every silent scream
If I was Inside Out
Every choked back word,
Every strangled dream
If I was Inside Out

If I was Inside Out
So could you see my heart
Would you love me?
Could you love me?

If I was Inside Out
And you could see my heart…


If I was Inside OutIf I was Inside Out
My Naked-Ass Truth kickin’ you in the balls

Would you hold me?
Would you love me?
Could you love me?
If I was Inside Out?

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Sen. Larry Craig and the Real Crime...

OK, so Senator Larry Craig, a long-time conservative politician and family man from Idaho, was caught and pleaded guilty to a most chilling crime:

He tapped his foot in a mens room stall.

Well, OK, it was probably a signal to see if the guy in the next stall was interested in giving or getting a blowjob. As far as I know, no patron was scandalized, no one's money was swiped, no one is bleeding, no one was hurt, no one was in any way impacted by it. But the howl from the media and politicians on both the left and right have to make one stop and pause.

Here, to me, are the real crimes:

That a man who is innately homosexual must spend his life deeply closeted and hiding it.

That society can so quickly turn on a man who's sexuality is 'different.'

That a man grows up loathing himself, ashamed of himself, and struggles his whole life. That he is reduced to furtive, secretive trysts that only drive him deeper into shame and dangerous sex.

That Republicans can be so self-righteous and hypocritical (conservative leadership, PR men, and pundits have always been rife with homsexuals at the highest levels) as to turn so quickly. That they can be so beholden to an ignorant and shrill right-wing base that they will shoot their wounded and never examine their own consciences.

That liberals will stand by and gloat, because 'he's not one of us.'

That gays will join in the blood-letting, because revenge is so much more exciting than teachable moments.

And lastly, that Larry will swear to his dying day that he is 'not gay," (or worse, that he's been 'cured), because he just can't accept himself.

The longer the closet door stays shut, the more the suffering will go on.

The sooner we put on army boots and smash that damn door to splinters, the easier it becomes for the next person to live the life they are meant to live without daily fear and anxiety.

The best reason to come out, Larry? To make sure the kids in the next generation dont live through the hell you have.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

New Hampshire enacts Civil Unions

Today, New Hampshire became the first state in the country to adopt civil unions for gay couples without a court order or a pending lawsuit against a marriage statute. And the bill even uses the term, "spousal union" to describe gay relationships. Once again, the Granite State stands in the vanguard of liberty for all.

Two years ago, state lawmakers held a series of "information gathering" meetings around the state. I attended the meeting held in Keene, NH, at the Keene Public Library.

The 'agenda' was set from the beginning. The overflow crowd of residents who had come to make their opinions known were told they would have to wait until the 'special guests' got to speak. The 'guests' were anti-civil union activists from Massachusetts.

That's right, New Hampshire legislators came to gather public opinions...but the residents of New Hampshire who took the time and effort to stand up in public and offer their opinion were delayed until the out-of state, non-resident, non-voting 'experts,' chosen by the panel itself, could tell us all what a disaster civil unions would be.

As the panel then turned to the audience, we were warned over and over that any disruption or impoliteness would result in the panels getting up and leaving. (Now there's a great example for lawmakers to set, huh?) Mere objections to allowing out of state testimony were promptly classified as disruptions, and people who's voices were shaking with nervousness at their first 'public hearing' were nastily shot down by the panel chair.

Predictably, the panel recommended a ban on same-sex unions.

Appropriately, the residents of New Hampshire threw them out at the next election.

Throughout the national media, one hears tales that New Hampshire has gone from 'conservative' to 'liberal' in one election. In actuality, nothing is furter from the truth: New Hampshire never *was* conservative. New Hampshire was, is, and remains, a libertarian state. In the area of taxes, firearms rights, and government regulation of business, the Republicans were the guardian of libertarian values. But today, as big brother Federal government pokes it nose into our library reading lists and our bedrooms, the Democrats are our best bet for guarding our liberties.

The average Granite Stater doesnt care who their neighbor sleeps with. And they dont care to have the government telling them what to do. For years, we relied on Republicans to carry the torch of liberty. Now, the Democrats have their chance....and this was another step in the direction of liberty.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

And some more Ink (yes, it's addictive...)

My newest addition...a Tribal Tattoo.

No, it doesnt have a specific meaning, except for the images one conjures up when one thinks "Tribal" (instinctive, ancient, mystical, community, warrior)

And now, for something completely (well almost) non-political...

My Bear Paw Tat, courtesy of Gina at Mom's Tattoo Studio in Keene, NH:

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

General Pace and "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

Well. This will not have to be a long post for me to make my point.

By now we have all read comments by the Marine Core's General Peter Pace in support of the Military's "Don't ask Don't Tell" policy . He stated,

"I believe homosexual acts between two individuals are immoral and that we should not condone immoral acts," said the General, and "I do not believe the United States is well served by a policy that says it is OK to be immoral in any way."

Now, in response, many in 'Gay Leadership' (HRC, GLBT Task Force, the usual Pink Mafiosos) went ballistic, and, in an almost habitual self-defeating way, went after the *wrong* issue. They immediately jumped on *what* he said, in proclaiming homsexuality to be immoral, instead of faulting his illogical reasoning as to how it relates to the Policy.

Like it or not, a lot of Americans agree with him on the 'it's immoral' issue. It is not a crime to think differently, or have different opinions abut 'morality,' no atter how odious they might seem. If we focus on the issue of whether or not homosexuality is 'immoral,' we become bogged down in an unwinnable arguement. People will believe what they want about sexual morality.

No, friends, the greater point is this: the good General proclaimed that it is necessary to keep any 'immorality' out of the military: "I do not believe the United States is well served by a policy that says it is OK to be immoral in any way." And this was his arguement in favor of DADT.

Let's be frank, General: soldiers don't have affairs, right? They don't visit brothels. They don't sow their oats when given a pass off-base. They wait until they're 21 to get drunk. They never smoke pot, or send drugs home. Those sailors-in-port stories are just that - stories. The army never talks to its soldiers about STDs or provides condoms, and never treats syphilis. Nope, never happens.

General, would you favor dismissing every soldier who visited a whorehouse? Smoked pot? Got drunk? Had sex with someone not his or her spouse? After all, if immorality is bad for military personnel, why not get rid of all the sinners in the armed forces?

Get off it, General. The most glaring point here is that there is a double standard: we wink at the boys who are off getting their rocks off when they're so far from home...we excuse it - even expect it - from red-blooded American soldiers. But God forbid one of those soldiers might have different inclinations - THAT's immoral, and they must be kept out of the army.

On it's face, the policy is riduculous, and must fall.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Mitt Romney: Like Nailing Jello to a Wall....

Mitt Romney's interview with George Stephanopoulos this morning was a remarkable study of a Teflon Candidate who spoke passionately about having strong convictions about many issues, while leaving the viewer in total confusion. From abortion to the federal role in education, Mitt seemed to be all over the board, each sentence contradicting the one before. But my favorite part of the interview was his internally inconsistent and thoroughly illogical perspectives on gays in the military and gay marriage (which, I guess, could be expected when you're the Mormon Governor of the most Liberal state in the union).

His comments on these issues, with my own comments added, are these:

Concerning Gays in the military, Mitt said:

"Well, "don't ask, don't tell" has worked well. "

"I must admit, I was somewhat uncertain as to whether that would work and I was skeptical as to whether that policy would work. "

"I don't have a policy posture as to allowing gays in the military to serve there openly."

(So, if I have this right, Mitt, you didn't think it would work, but now you think it has worked, and you don't want gays to be 'open')

Mitt continued: "But I can tell you that I'm against discrimination against people who are gay and lesbian." don't want Gays in the military to admit to any soul in the military that they are gay. But you are against discrimination. So, it would be OK to admit you are Catholic, Democrat, or of Croatian ethnic heritage; you could admit to being heterosexual and discuss in lurid detail your exploits with those of the opposite sex in the barracks; you could wolf whistle at the strippers in the club and place dollars in their long as it was a dancer of the opposite sex. So tell me again how you are 'against discrimination against people who are gay,' but believe that gays and ONLY gays must be silent about their lives to remain on the job?

And for what its worth Mitt, "Don't Ask Don't Tell" has NOT all. But we will save that issue for a separate blog entry.

Then, on marriage:

"...I do favor and have always favored traditional marriage and oppose same sex marriage.
..... I've felt marriage is between a man and a woman and not between people of the same gender. "

'....two people can enter into a partnership, whether they're people who love each other or whether they're just friends. They can enter into a contract and have contractual relationships with one another. ... But that doesn't require a sanction by the state and so that's a decision each state would have to make. I wouldn't seek to impose, at the national level, a prohibition on contractual relationships between two people...But my view is, at the national level, we should define marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman..."

Whooa! "It's a decision each state would have to make" and "I wouldn't seek to impose, at the national level...," followed by, "At the national level, we should define marriage."

Mitt, old boy, do you see any contradiction there? Appealing to individual contractual rights and states rights on one hand, and supporting a national policy on the other hand? All things to all people, buster? Or Nothing to Anybody?

But here's the real exciting part:

"... And this isn't about adult rights. A lot of people get confused that gay marriage is about treating gay people the same as treating heterosexual people, and that's not the issue involved here. This is about the development and nurturing of children. Marriage is primarily an institution to help develop children and children's development, I believe, is greatly enhanced by access to a mom and a dad. I think every child deserves a mom and a dad, and that's why I'm so consistent and vehement in my view that we should have a federal amendment which defines marriage in that way..." My view is that the right model for the nation and the right standard for the nation is marriage is between a man and a woman and a child deserves a mom and a dad.."

Well, Mitt, you have pretty clearly stated that marital rights are about 'the development and nurturing of children." So if that's what marital rights are all about, I have some questions for you:

Does that mean you would revoke marital rights for heterosexual couples who are unable, or choose not, to raise children?

Would you revoke marital rights for couples once their children are grown and out of the house?

Would you make adoption by single parents illegal?

If marriage rights and benefits are predicated on the notion of raising children, then by your own standards childless couples should not have these rights. If you favor the adoption of a child by a single woman, how could you logically oppose the adoption of that child by a single woman and her partner? Further, under your own standard, if a state permits gay couples to adopt...wouldn't they have a stronger claim to marital benefits than a heterosexual couple with no children?

At some point, Mitt, you will need to stop sticking your wet finger in the wind while whispering contradictory sweet nothings into three different ears at once. And when you do, then we'll examine your stands on the issues. Until then, we'll give you some time to think about the logical conclusions of some of your 'positions.'

Courage and Independent Thinking in Wisconsin

Lately it's been refreshing listening to politicians out of Wisconsin. Both Democrat Sen. Russ Feingold and former Republican Governor Tommy Thompson have staked out positions on Iraq that place them at odds with their respective parties - positions that show both the courage of their convictions and pragmatism.

The Democrats took control over state legislatures and Congress largely on a wave of public dissatisfaction with the Iraqi mess. But Democrats can not just point the finger at the Bush - they, too, went along with most of this program, and gave been voting to continue it. This week, Democrats tried a lame resolution in Congress - one that passed the House but is stalled in the Senate. The Resolution disagrees with Bush's troop escalation, but does nothing about it. Even if passed, it's merely as if they are children saying "I don't like this!," but nothing happens as a result. It is a mere 'opinion' with no force or effect.

Russ Feingold is a Democrat who insists on 'walking the talk.' Rather than just offering non-binding opinions, Feingold is pushing for Congress to cut off funding for the Iraq war. While the President is the Commander-in-Chief, the House holds the purse strings. That is part of the checks and balances that the Founding fathers built into the Constitution.

If Democrats really want to stop the war, they can support Feingold. I suspect that what they really want to do is *complain* about the war, but not actually stop it. And for that reason, Feingold's bold proposal will probably not be supported.

Then there's Tommy Thompson's approach to Iraq. Thompson shows himself to be the ultimate realist when he sees Iraq not "as we want it to be," and not "as it ought to be," but as it truly is. And in so doing, he has called for the division of Iraq into three separate states rather than trying to hold it together as a single nation.

From the late 1200s until World War I, the land we call Iraq was under the control of the Ottoman Empire. And during the time, there were three states in the region: Mosul, Baghdad, and Basra. That's a long time, folks. After the defeat of the Ottoman Turks in WWI, the European victors tried to create a sovereign nation - Iraq - out of these disparate pieces. One of the casualties of carving up the Ottoman Empire was the separation of the Kurds across four nations: Iran,k Iraq, Turkey, and Syria.

Since then, the Kurds have been one of the most harassed people-groups on earth. In 1925 Turkey suppressed the Kurds, and outlawed their language and cultural expressions. In 1961 the Kurds began rebelling against the Iraqi government, and fighting has continued in fits and starts since then. In 1979, when Islamic Fundamentalists took over Iran, Kurds fought the Islamicists and were brutally suppressed in that nation. In 1988, Iraq engaged in "Al-Anfal," ('The Spoils of War'), and slaughtered thousands of Kurds. One and a half million Kurds fled to Turkey, which, at the time, was the lesser of four evils. During the first Persian Gulf War, the Kurds supported the US invasion and rebelled against Saddam Hussein. Their reward was to be slaughtered when Saddam was permitted to remain in power. Throughout the 1990s, Kurds were subject to raids by Turkish forces crossing the border into Iraq. Finally, in the most recent Iraqi engagement, the Kurds steadfastly opposed Saddam (after thousands had been maimed, killed, and gassed with toxic chemicals by his regime), and assisted the American and European forces.

Since that time, the Kurdish region of Iraq has been stable. The sectarian violence that plagues the Shiites and Sunni Muslims in Baghdad is practically non-existent in Iraqi Kurdistan. While the Kurds live in relative autonomy right now, it came at a price: they still have no homeland of their own, and the oil-rich lands around Kirkuk and Mosul - traditional Kurdish cities - have been wrested from them and given to the Sunnis & Shiites who continue to be engaged in a civil war with each other.

For over 700 years, Iraq existed as three states. Today, the Kurds have suffered at the ends of Iraq and the surrounding states, bore the brunt of Saddam's cruelty, have assisted the west in every endeavor, and have shown themselves capable of peaceful and effective government - and yet, their reward is still to be a people without a homeland, in an Iraqi nation with make-believe borders imposed by Britain after WWI.

It's time to listen to Thompson, give the Kurds their own homeland, and let the Shiites and Sunnis fight their own battles with each other. And time to listen to Feingold, and not just talk about ending a war and whining about it, but actually doing it.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

"As Maine goes..."

Starting in about 1840, Maine became known as a political 'bellweather' state, largely because Mainers voted for Governor and Congress in September, not November. With a two month jump on the rest of the country, pundits jumped on the Maine vote to look for voting trends, and indeed, Maine appeared to be a reliable predicter of the national mood up until the FDR years. Somewhere along the line, someone coined the phrase, "As Maine goes, so goes the nation."

Let's hope not.

In the name of political correctness (from the liberals), fighting terrorism (from the neoconservatives), and moral propriety (from the social conservatives), Free Speech is dying an ugly death throughout the state.

The University of Maine at Presque Isle’s Residence Hall Guide contains a policy that prohibits harassment. Part of that policy reads: “Even if the harassment is unintentional, it still occurs and will not be tolerated.”

Excuse me? You can now harass someone, and not even know you're doing it - and be punished for it?! Since when did people gain a right to never be offended by someone? I guess if you're not enlightened in matters of the latest politically correct words, you may be punished simply for plain-speaking. You are guilty if someone doesnt like what you said, no matter what your intention was.

As the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education states on their webiste, "...As a public university, UMPI cannot prohibit speech that is protected by the First Amendment. The U.S. Supreme Court has defined what schools may legitimately prohibit as harassment: conduct “so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it effectively bars the victim’s access to an educational opportunity or benefit.” By definition, then, an unintentional, off-hand comment or joke cannot be harassment, making this policy legally untenable. This policy is also completely ridiculous. How can a college prepare its students for the real world if it shields them from even the most mild offense? Society is full of people with different personalities and different viewpoints, and being offended is a part of everyday life. It is a disservice to lead young adults to believe they can breeze through life free from offense, because that simply does not reflect reality."

But Maine's assault on free speech is not rrestricted to the campus.

In Portland, Tom Connolly faces charges of terrorizing, reckless conduct, and criminal threatening. Why? Because on Halloween he dressed up as Osama bin Laden, and even carried a plastic squirt gun.

Oh my, imagine that. For 5 years Osama has eluded world wide military scrutiny, and there he was, sauntering down the street in Portland Maine. Yup, I would have believed that he had just flown in for a glass of wine in the Old Port District.... Might the costume have been in poor taste? Yup. Is poor taste illegal? Nope. Have we become so obsessed with terror that now we arrest people playing dress-up on Halloween? Was thatscarier than some of the blood-dripping, eye-ball festering, razor-tooth masks worn at Halloween? Perhaps Maine could outlaw all offensive Halloween costumes, even if they offend unintentionally..that would be consistent with the campus rules, at least...

But the latest blow to free speech came when a British Beer Company attempted to sell "Santa's Butt" in Maine. The label shows Santa from behind, sitting on a Butt (a barrel used in beer fermentation) hoisting a glass of ale.

The Maine authorities prohibited its sale in the state. The Maine Bureau of Liquor Enforcement said the label was considered "undignified and improper."

Since when is "Undiginified and Improper" a legal reason to stifle speech? I can think of many political rants that are both 'undignified and improper.'

The point is, it really shouldnt matter whether someone considers something 'undignified and improper.' That speech which is MOST offensive is PRECISELY that speech that needs to be vigilantly protected under the US Constitution. If it wasn't offensive, it wouldnt need to be protected! Someone may feel that espousing Nazi or Eugenicist philsophies is offensive, and so be it, they are. But it is still protected speech.

NO ONE HAS A RIGHT TO "NEVER BE OFFENDED." Deal with it, Mainers....

In a twist, Maine and other states (notably New York) have realized that they really can't prohibit something because its in 'poor taste.' Now both states are changing their tactic, suggesting that having Santa on the label would 'attract children' to drink it.

Nice try, guys...but there are already 12 Christmas-themed beers in both of those states, including Sam Adams "Old Fezziwig's Ale" and Anchor's "Merry Christmas" Ale. Other brands shows elves. And what 6-year old, enamoured of the picture of Santa, is going to saunter out of the grocery store with a 6-pack under his arm?

The problem here, as always, is that someone with the power of the state behind them believes it is their solemn duty to protect the rest of us: to protect us from being offended, upset, mislead, or scandalized.

Well, that's not your job, buckos. Get off your high horse and let the market determine whether Santa's Butt has a place at the table. We're adults, we can make our own decisions, and don't need you to make them for us.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

When will the Right stop pretending to be Holier-Than-Thou?

Mark Foley is not the first conservative to have been 'exposed' as a homosexual. And it is sad that his lawyer immediately tried to explain' his situation by revealing that he was sexually abused as a child, an deffor aimed at calming the fears of the militantly loyal (and righteous) religious right. After all, the right has 'tolerated' Dick Cheney's daughter (hey, after all, it is DICK CHENEY'S daughter, right?).

But what about the parade that has preceded this little scandal currently unfolding?

Anyone remember Mel White, press seceretary to Jerry Falwell and behind-the-scenes political operative for a dozen religious right politicos? He not only came out, he smashed the door down and pubished a book about it- "Stranger at the Gate."

And then there was Art Finkelstein, the pollster who enabled the Nassau County Republican machine to maintain its grip on the elctorate for a decade or more, and who propelled Alphonse D'Amato from a Town Presiding Supervisor to a U S. Senator.

How about Bob Baumann, former conservative darling and congressman from Maryland?

And now lets really reach back..back when I was a mere twenty-something, and Terry Dolan was the Chairman of NCPAC (the National Conservative Poitcial Action Committee) that propelled Ronald Reagan into the White House. I knew Terry, and worked on campaigns with him at the YAF headquarters at 25 Jane Street in Greenwich Village. A young man, Terry died in the AIDs crisis that exploded in the 1980s...and had the courage to come out as a gay man at that time.

No, my friends, there is nothing new about Gay Men who are otherwise conservative, hiding in the closets of their parent organizations, lest they be exposed, ridiculed, and shunned. Perhaps this Boston Globe editotial by David Link says it best:

"The inability to deal straightforwardly with gay people leads to other kinds of truth-avoidance when things go south. But that's what comes from not wanting to know something, and going out of your way to remain ignorant.

We've come a long way since homosexuals had two basic options: the closet or jail. But a good portion of the electorate, most of them Republican, still seems to long for the good old days when we didn't have to think about ``those people." Both Libertarians and, generally, the Democratic Party have withdrawn their official support for the closet over time. States, too, are seeing what a losing battle this is, and allowing homosexuals to live their lives in conformity with, rather than opposition to, the law.

But that leaves Republicans and the religious right trying to live a 1950s lie in the new millennium. As Foley prepared in 2003 to run for the Senate, newspapers in Florida and elsewhere published stories about his homosexuality. But you'd never hear any of his colleagues saying such a thing. And Foley himself refused to discuss the issue, until his lawyer acknowledged Wednesday that the former congressman is indeed gay.

But what can one expect from denying grown men -- and women -- a normal, adult sex life? Whether the denial of adult intimacy comes from religious conviction or the ordinary urge toward conformity, people who run away from their sexuality nearly always have to answer to nature somehow. For people who fear abiding and mutual love, the trust and confusion of the young is a godsend. Add to that the perquisites of power, and a degenerate is born.

...the Republican Party in Washington guarantees its own future calamities in its enduring and steadfast habit of pretending that, unlike heterosexuality, homosexuality can be either denied or suppressed."

Thursday, June 08, 2006

The "Federal Marriage Amendment" - once again, Christian Conservatives look to the Beast for help...

Much was made in Enquirer-like circles of the fact that this week started with the date "06/06/06," a reminder of the "Mark of the Beast" in the Book of Revelations. It is a symbol that the End-Times Crowd has often warned about - and so it is increasingly ironic that many of the same Christian Conservatives and Republicans went running to the Beast this week in order to 'preserve' marriage. The Beast, of course, is how I refer to the Federal Government.

For decades, the Republicans have been telling us that they stand for smaller government, for limited government, for local control rather than federal fiats imposed on the states. This was one of Ronald Reagan's key mantras in the 1980s than helped propel him to two unprecendented landslide victories.

But do the Republicans really believe what they are saying?

In the last few years, this "small government" crowd has overseen the largest expansion of federal power since the Civil War - even more so than the much-derided New Deal under FDR. The Patriot Act, telephone surveillance, the development of a national ID card (REAL ID), warrantless searches, secret prisons and detainees held without bail or charges are not the actions of a "small government" crowd.

Of course, some try to tortuously defend all this by claiming we are at war. And yet, that doesn't explain the intrusive "No Child Left Behind" Act, the efforts by the Food & Drug Administration to regulate herbal supplements and fight state laws on medical marajuana, the efforts by Congress to interfere in major league baseball policy, the bloated budget, tariffs on steel and textiles, a government-expanded medicare boondoggle, or the abysmal deficit. These are not the acts of "small government" or "local control" thinking, and they can not be excused as temporary "war-time" acts. What they are is an unconscionable and unconstitutional expansion of Federal jurisdiction over the rights reserved to the States and to the People themselves (See your 10th amendment to the Bill of Rights).

And amazingly, the footsoldiers of Republicanism - the supposedly anti-big-government rank-and-file social religious conservatives - are in the vanguard of supporting the administration that has achieved the largest expansion of federal power in history.

And then comes the Federal Marriage Amendment.

Oh sure, it's great political hay. The Republican leadership can 'energize' its base by appealing to their emotion on the issue of 'gay marriage' and 'activist judges.' This is a formula that regularly works for the Republicans. And to be sure, many judges are activist, and inappropriately so. But a Federal Marriage Amendment is quite possibly the last leg of a journey whereby the lemmings chase each other off the cliff.

The Federal Government has NEVER had jurisdiction over 'family' issues. These issues have ALWAYS been the province of the states.

Indiviual states decide what the criteria for marriage are. Residency, minimum age, and blood tests vary from state to state. It's a state right, not federal.

Individual states decide what the criteria for divorce is. Abandonment, residency, cruelty, irreconcilable differences, alcoholism, impotency, imprisonment, and a host of other causes of action for divorce, as well as alimony terms, are different from state to state.

Other issues of Family law, such as adoption regulations, the legal status of private adoptions, teenage emancipation, and the legal definitions of abuse and neglect - are ALL individual state laws.

And somehow, we have always left these issues to the states, the states have always had conflicting and different standards, and civilization did not fall apart because of it. Rather, we are stronger for it: the genuius of our Constitution is that it recognizes that one size does not have to fit all, that Alaskans do not have to run their towns the way Floridians do, and that the sensibilities of Mexican immigrants in Arizona might be significantly different from tenth generation Maine Yankees.

By running to amend the Constitution, the religious right is doing precisly that which they supposedly fear: they are running to the federal government to impose a one-size-fits all solution on the entire nation, and, in so doing, seeking to hand over yet more jurisdiction over individual families to Federal Power.

It doesnt matter whether you favor gay marriage or not. This is the wrong approach, and is yet anoter examnple of how the 'small government' Republicans are using emotional scare tactics to amass even greater authority and jurisdiction in Washington.

Sincere apprecition must be expressed to the New England Republicans - Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe (Maine), John Sununu and Judd Gregg (NH) and Lincoln Chaffee (Rhode Island) who bucked their own party to vote against this nonsense.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Time for Patriots to stand firm: NO National ID Card!

"I will reject a REAL-ID-compliant NH drivers license/National ID but
only if 199 other NH residents or soon-to-be residents will vow to do
the same."
— BikerBill, NH Freedom Fighter

Deadline: Election Day, November 7, 2006

On May 11, 2005, the Orwellian, unconstitutional, unfunded legislation known as the REAL-ID Act, having been snuck through the US Congress without any debate or public scrutiny, was signed into law by a President who believes he is above his country's laws.

On May 11, 2006, a day that will live in NH history as either the start of the revolution or the true beginning of death throes for liberty, sovereignty and representative government "of the people, by the people, and for the people" in NH (and coincidentally the same day the massive NSA phone records database story broke), the NH Senate decided to defiantly, arrogantly and repeatedly disregard the Constitutions of the US and NH, the NH House, Gov Lynch, the Concord Monitor, the Manchester Union Leader, its own study committee and its laughably lopsided
testimony, as well as its rather vocal NH constituency, not to mention international press and organizations as disparate as the Cato Institute and the ACLU.

The New Hampshire House voted to defy the federal national ID card mandate.

But the NH Senate killed the bill sent to them from the House.

Rather, they chose illusory safety over essential liberty. They sold out their constituents, rejected HB1582, and embraced Federal unconstitutional authority in giddy anticipation of $3M in taxpayer-funded "sucker money."

They thus failed their duty, their oath, their citizens, their state, and their country. They are a true and bitter embarrassment to the Founding Fathers and the historic "Live Free or Die" culture of NH.

Let this message of jealously guarded liberty be sent to the NH Senate in no uncertain terms by their similarly defiant bosses (that's you) by Election Day, 2006.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

My new Celtic Armband Tattoo

This was my first Tattoo, and I am totally jazzed about it. It took 4 1/2 hours start to finish. On a pain scale of 0-10, it was mostly only a 1 (less painful than a mosquito bite) for the outline on my upper arm. As we got to the second or third layer of color on the underside of my arm near my pit, it was more off strips of flesh and then exposing the remaining raw arm to an open flame...LOL! Actually, I may be hooked on the Pain..heh, heh, heh....

In all honesty, the artist and the parlor were great, professional, friendly, upbeat, and better than all my expectations. Major league thanks to Chris Molloy, the artist who designed the band, and Moms Tattoo parlor in Keene, NH (

Thursday, February 02, 2006

A Tale of Two Cities: Copenhagen and Washington

This time, there is nothing "rotten in denmark," to quote Hamlet. In fact, tiny Denmark is standing as a beacon of freedom and civilization against a backdrop of intolerant Islamic fundamentalism and spineless American hand-wringing.

Last fall, the Jyllands-Posten, a Danish newspaper, published 12 cartoon caricatures of Mohammed. Denmark has a long tradition of guaranteeing freedom of the press, and the cartoons immediately caused an uprising among Islamicists. Palestinaians have rioted in Gaza. Arab nations have withdrawn their ambassadors. Muslim spokesmen have requested UN intervention. Muslim states have embarked on a campaign to boycott all danish products. Even Denmark's fellow European states are hedging their bets and trying to make excuses and find a 'middle ground.'

The Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), representing 57 Muslim states and territories, issued a memorandum on January 1 accusing the Danish government of "indifference" after Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen declined to intervene in the dispute. It should be noted that more than three-quarters of his fellow countrymen agree with his stand. His parties foreign affairs spokesman, Troels Lund, stated "It is important to stand our ground and say that we have a separation of powers in Denmark and something called freedom of expression."

Well, bully for the Danes! This is the same small state whose Christian citizens, when overrun by Hitlers'armies in WWII, rose in solidarity with their fellow Jews and wore yellow Stars of David. Today - when Islamic Fundamentalism seeks to silence any human expression it deems offensive (art, movies, music, prose, poetry, theater, even news) - Denmark is an example of freedoms that western civilization has always held dear. What a statement it would be if the free world would join the "Anti-Boycott" and purchase Tuborg Gold and Carlsberg Beers, and Havarti Cheese and Danish Butter Cookies in solidarity with Denmark's government.

A petition to support Denmark can be found here:

Meanwhile, in Washington, the State Department has joined with the Islamicists, stating that the cartoons were 'offensive' and that freedom of the press must be balanced with 'responsibility.' In other words, if your message is anything but bland, it shouldn't be protected. As a practical example of this eradication of First Amendment rights, anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan was arrested for wearing a shirt with an anti-war message to the State of the Union speech.

It's a sad day when the US government claims to be fighting Islamic terrorism while adopting their mentality...

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Impeach Bush....Now.

In the 1950's, far too many Repubicans stood around in silent assent as Joseph McCarthy engaged in planned character assasination. Then, as now, the country feared an outside power, and it took a stong backbone to stand up and say "enough!."

That backbone came in the person of Margaret Chase Smith, (R-Maine), who delivered her now-famous "Declaration of Conscience" Speech on the floor of the U. S. Senate. The McCarthy juggernaut was finally put to rest because of the courage of one woman.

Do we have any statesman ready to stand up today?

Understand that your Blogger voted for Bush - twice. My ancestors arrived in Nieuw Amsterdam in the 1600s and were New York GOP activists for as long as there has been a Republican Party in the Empire State. My break with the party of my heritage has been a long, drawn-out and painful process, but has accelerated as I have watched the Bush administration and its supporters turn the party of 'limited government and liberty' into one that has turned our Federal Government into an all-powerful police state.

My call today for Bush's impeachment is based on three very simple items, which, taken together, form a pretty solid case:

Item #1:

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” (U. S. Constitution, Amendment IV)

Item #2:

[The President shall] take the following Oath or Affirmation: - “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of the president of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

Item 3:

“President Bush acknowledged on Saturday that he had ordered the National Security Agency to conduct an electronic eavesdropping program in the United States without first obtaining warrants, and said he would continue the highly classified program because it was "a vital tool in our war against the terrorists." (New York Times, 17 Dec 2005)

Surely these actions are far more grevious than Clinton's dallying with an intern, and have a far greater significance. It's time the Republicans acknowledge the rot within their own ranks.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Pat Robertson is an Embarassment to Christianity

In yet another outburst that leaves sensible people shaking their heads, Televangelist Pat Robertson has ranted against the town of Dover, Pennsylvania, where voters recently ousted all 8 members of a school board that had required "Intelligent Design" instruction.

Robertson stated, “I’d like to say to the good citizens of Dover: if there is a disaster in your area, don’t turn to God, you just rejected him from your city. And don’t wonder why he hasn’t helped you when problems begin, if they begin. I’m not saying they will, but if they do, just remember, you just voted God out of your city. And if that’s the case, don’t ask for his help because he might not be there.”

Where does one begin?

Well, as a Christian, I feel I must begin by asking people *not* to think that Roberston represents any semblance of theologially sound Christianity when he pulls these political stunts. Please do not associate the majority of us with this lunatic.

Next, I guess I have to ask Pat, "How do you know what was in each voter's heart as he or she cast their vote?"

No doubt some voters rejected this board because their town was plunged into an expensive unresolved lawsuit and they are unwilling to fund it with their rising property taxes. Perhaps some agree with intelligent design but found the board members too acerbic. Perhaps some agree with Creationism, but reject the specific line-by-line precept approach many Intelligent Design advocates have developed to explain the disappearance of dinosaurs, the ice age, tectonic plate movements, rain, etc. Perhaps some are devout Christians who believe in the evolution of species, but the special creation of Man.

Casting a vote is a highly personal and complex decision. I have voted for candidates with whom I have disagreed philsophically because "my" candidate had poor ethics. I have voted "against" candidates rather than "for" candidates. I have weighed differences and voted for the 'lesser of two evils.' It's not as cut and dry as you would have us believe, Pat.

But most outrageous Pat, is your arrogance in proclaiming that you know how God operates, and your telling people not to call upon Him in their times of need. To suggest that God will take His toys and go home because your candidates lost is juvenile. In fact, it reminds me of Eliphaz, Zophar, Bildad, and Elihu sitting around arguing with Job, each insisting that they knew God's ways and explaining just why Job was suffering so.

In the end, even Job attempted to explain God's interaction with man, and, when God answered him out of the whirlwind, Job finally understood when he said:

"...I put my hand over my mouth. I spoke once, but i have no answer - - twice, but I will say no more....Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know" - Job 40:4b-5, 42:3b [NIV]

I think Job has some sound advice for you, Pat....

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Economic Illiteracy in the Pulpit

It is now quite fashionable in many Christian circles to be an “Environmentalist Christian.” Terms like “Creation Care,” and “Social Justice,” and “Environmental Justice” seem to roll off tongues like other media clichés. Caring for the grass and the whales is getting more attention in some church circles than clothing the naked and feeding the hungry.

Now, don’t think that I’m one of those callous earth-haters. On my little hilltop farm, I bred Jacob Sheep precisely because they were a rare and endangered species. Our garden is strictly organic, and I can spend hours sitting in a meadow, walking through the woods, or canoeing in a marsh. I have a great deal of respect for the cycles of the seasons and the rhythms of the year…yes, I do have a few drops of mystical Celtic blood in me...

But that doesn’t mean that in the passion of environmental exuberance I should cast all other important aspects of life to the wind. I still have financial and family responsibilities. Political and economic issues surround us all in a hundred ways every day. Issues of the very soul go deeper still…and yet, some of our religious spokespersons, in their genuine excitement for a reawakening of environmental consciousness, have gone so overboard as to overstep their expertise, preach a false and dysfunctional message, and mislead their flocks. I would suggest that the Ship of the Church is currently listing about eight points to starboard due to unevenly distributed ecological ballast….

I was used to this, of course, in some evangelical circles. “Creation Care” magazine and the social justice crowd there and at Eastern University offer a veritable smorgasbord of animal rights, anti-business socialists dressing up their philosophy in theology. As a participant in last years' "Microfinance and Environment Conference" at Eastern, I witnessed the fervency with which some other participants embraced feminist agendas and global warming hysteria. Fortunately, due to the fractious, decentralized nature of Protestantism, they can be ignored. It is more difficult when these views come from hierarchical leaders with Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy.

On October 1, St Vladimir’s Seminary in Crestwood, NY (the seminary of the Orthodox Church in America) held their annual “Orthodox Education Day.” The Rev. Thomas Hopko, Dean of the Seminary, gave a lecture geared for the clergy that I attended (and no, I am neither clergy nor a candidate for said position…). He declared that the problems of society could be summed up by the values embodied by the god “Nike.” On the whiteboard, he identified those ‘problems’ as being characterized as the “P’s,” writing a long list of words beginning with the letter “P” that were problematic. Among these were “Pornography,” “Power,” and “Prestige.” Then of course, he added the filthiest P-word of them all: “Profit.”

Apparently, it never occurred to him that the reason he was able to put on a pair of eyeglasses that morning was because someone earned a profit examining his eyes and making the frames and cutting the lenses. He didn’t stop to think that the whiteboard on which he wrote was made available for his use because the company that manufactured it made a profit. He didn’t quite explain how the enormous book sale taking place in the tent on the lawn outside the class was kept stocked with hundreds of titles without the mechanism of “profit.” Nor did he quite explain how a seminary could survive in high-priced Westchester County, New York without benefactors who make donations out of the profit made by their personal labor.

I am sorry to sound so sarcastic, but I am just so tired of clergy who insist on pontificating on economic topics, though they may be clueless on the subject. A roomful of young, impressionable black-robed students, clergy and clergy candidates sat nodding their heads in agreement…and I noted that St. Vladimir’s does not even offer any courses in business or economics. What half-baked notions will these men bring with them to their future homilies?

Last weekend I attended a different event, “Wealth and Poverty in Early Christianity," sponsored by the Pappas Institute at Holy Cross College (this being the Greek Orthodox Seminary in the US). A wide range of speakers from both secular and sacred backgrounds presented a truly wonderful program – the best ‘professional development’ opportunity I have ever attended, in fact. Unfortunately, the scholarship was compromised by the presence of the Roman Catholic President (and treasurer) of Boston Catholic Charities, the Rev. J. Bryan Hehir. Riding the “Social Justice” train, Rev. Hehir proceeded to criticize those who oppose taxation and programmatic largesse to help the poor. He stated that the philosophy of the [Roman] Catholic Church is such that one need not rely on the Church for implementing the church’s programs, but that other institutions – including Government – are appropriate and even necessary agents to achieve the Church’s goals. He defended Government taxation and wealth redistribution, because, (and I wrote this quote down)

“otherwise, the poor would be at the mercy of the generosity of individuals.”

Ummmm…..yeah? And? Who would you have them at the mercy of, Rev. Hehir? Of bureaucrats? Of Systems and Instructions (not that you have a vested interest in that, would you?) Of those who make their living by insuring the continuity of the poverty-relief system? Of those who take a cut of every offering made and give what’s left to the poor? How does a ‘man of the cloth’ take such a dim view of voluntary Christian generosity? Are you jaded because the world has not given to your institution as mush as you believe you need?

If I am ever destitute, I pray that I am held in the mercy of real people, of caring neighbors, of people with eyes to see and arms to hug - and not a waiting room and interminable lines at government institutions.

I should not end this without giving praise and credit where it is due. His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in North & South America, also spoke. But the Primate’s talk consisted of a series of stories – vignettes of real people, how he has seen individuals helping individuals, even poor people assisting other poor people during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. And the overwhelming sense he conveyed was that of our individual responsibilities to our fellow man and woman.

That is a breath of fresh air. I’ll continue to promote the importance of profit and economic expansion, and the need to voluntarily support the poor around us. And I think I’m in good company, according to the writer of Proverbs 31:10-31

10 Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies. 11 The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil. 12 She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life. 13 She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands. 14 She is like the merchants' ships; she bringeth her food from afar. 15 She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens. 16 She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard. 17 She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms. 18 She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night. 19 She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff. 20 She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy. 21 She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet. 22 She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple. 23 Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land. 24 She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant. 25 Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come. 26 She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness. 27 She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness. 28 Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her. 29 Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all. 30 Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised. 31 Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.