11/30/07

"By soul, by blood, I will fight for the Prophet Mohammad!"

Who are the offending miscreants who have the Sudanese rioting in the streets, screaming for blood in the name of The Religion of Peace?

Here they are:






"KHARTOUM, Sudan — Thousands of Sudanese, many armed with clubs and knives, rallied Friday in a central square and demanded the execution of a British teacher convicted of insulting Islam for allowing her students to name a teddy bear "Muhammad.""

What's really surprising is that these religious zealots/fundamentalists/psychos aren't screaming for the heads of the children as well.

The Lies have it

"That was an interesting article by Michael Medved, don't you think?" asked Leece.

We were down at The Holy Land Quickee's, having a ...quick...morning cappie. Billy was snuffling some kind of burrito-like thing. I wasn't sure if it was from Juan Diego, or Mickey D, or some other place. From the looks of it, the health department might have had a professional interest.

"Yeah. Yeah. But his assumption that Americans are going to church in increasing numbers is based on faulty polling," Billy said.

"I think you're probably right," she responded, "I think the pollsters need to get up off their butts and actually start correlating physical attendance with their poll responses. Most church populations in the US are decreasing."

"Yep. Yep. Take a look at the ones here in The Smile Hi City. Based over the last ten years, most of them have seen significant decreases. Talk to pastors around the country, and you'll get the same thing," Billy agreed.

"The megachurches, those non-denominational things, especially the ones with the 'prosperity preachers', are doing a lot better. If you interview members of those churches you'll find they jumped ship from more conventional congregations," I added.

"How does 'prosperity preaching' fit in with Christianity?" Tookie asked.

"Good question. They seem to emphasize accruing more and more material wealth," I observed.

"Sure. And of course, the more the congregation members make, the more tithing goes to the church," said Leece.

"And that's why you see the likes of Joel Osteen and his brethren driving around in fancy cars, wearing those high-end Italian silk suits. And you won't see them taking lunch at the local fast food joint, trying to save a few bucks," Billy sniffed, somewhat indignantly.

"They say they preach Christ's message," Tookie said, "but their actions show otherwise. That's the church that refused the service for the Navy vet that turned out to be gay. Do you think Christ would have turned him away?"

"Absolutely not," said Leece, "and nor should the church...if the church is truly the 'Bride of Christ'; the 'Body of Christ'."

"Used to be in the old days, you'd see Jesus hangin' out with the sinners. Even tax collectors, who were among the worst of the scum..."

"Wasn't Matthew a tax collector to begin with?" interrupted Tookie.

"...yet Matthew was a tax collector and look at the effect Jesus had on him," continued Leece, giving Toot Sweet the raised eyebrow.

"So the poll figures don't match what you will see in most churches,"Tookie said, "what about the rest of what he has to say about 'the end is near!'?"

"Well, gen'rully, he's right. Things aren't near as bad as Pitchfork Pat and the rest would have us believe. People in American tend to be quite spiritual. Just ask them, face-to-face, not over the phone with some canned list of questions. But then, ask them what they think about Christ, and then ask them what they think about Christians, and why, and you will have the answer to why church populations are declining. The question then becomes, what do you do about it?," Billy pontificated.

"It isn't that people don't like, or even don't believe in, God and Christ," pointed out Tookie, "it's that they can't stand Christians. You'll hear it time and time again. Jesus hung around with dirtbags and tried to reach them while the Pharisees, the establishment, sneered at him for it. Today the churches have become fortresses for the righteous...or the self-righteous...while the downtrodden seek spiritual sustenance elsewhere."

"You don't think all churches, or everyone in church, is like that, do you?" asked Billy.

"No. Of course not. But it's enough that it drives people away from churches, or keeps them way in the first place," she said.

"So what's to be done about it?" Billy asked.

"Aye. There's the question, now, ain't it, matey?" Toots asked, "Let me ask you this. How much effort is put forth by churches for overseas ministries, and how much is put forth by churches for local ministries? Ministries to help those in our communities who most need it?"

"Well, some. There's outfits that run the soup kitchens and shelters and so on," Billy pointed out.

"Yep. But most congregations like what I call "The Sally Struthers Effect", Tookie explained, "which is where you can send some money off every month to some urchin in some Third World sewer somewhere, and you don't have to get your hands dirty; you don't have to mingle with the scum of the earth."

"What about these outfits that send working parties out to build new churches in far off lands?"

"That's a little better, but they are already dealing with the committed and the converted," she pointed out, "how many pastors do you see going down to the local bars, for example, to see if they can reach anyone there? There's a lot of sad souls drowning sins and sorrows, draped over a bar somewhere, but what do you think would happen if one of the local pastors were to be seen in the local gin mill?"

"Huh. Huh. Good point."

Lies in church polling (1998)

How many North Americans go regularly to church - and how many lie about going?

Google 'church attendance' and 'church decline' for more than you ever wanted to know.

11/29/07

Hillary: Zero for Three

Ralph Reiland has a good editorial here:

Hillary: Zero for Three

an excerpt:

"It's true that things aren't perfect in this country, or in medical care, but to put Hillary in charge of fixing the holes is like putting Mussolini in charge in order to get the trains running on time.

What Mrs. Clinton seems to not understand is that markets, however imperfect, generally and automatically do a better job of organizing an economy than any set of government planners or political appointees. What the record shows, over time and in every region of the world, is that millions of people, pursuing their own interests in their own way, are better than government at running an economy, both in terms of delivering the goods and maximizing individual freedom.

Simply put, government is no match for markets when it comes to developing a culture in which creativity, liberty, competition, incentives, efficiency and commerce flourish."

And of course, we have the recent episodes with the press, with planted questions and questioners, and both Clintons standing up before the press claiming things that are absolutely false. Like their positions on the war in Iraq. Bill and Hillary may not understand how to Google, but most of we hoi polloi certainly do.

Wrong on 'moral collapse', or, The End Of American Civilization As We Know It

So we continue to listen to self-righteous Christian fundamentalists like Pat Robertson, "Pitchfork Pat" Buchanan, the 'prosperity preachers' who want you to send them more money, presumably on the premise that you can buy your way to salvation, and all the rest, tell us how America is doomed.

Here is an interesting article that has a somewhat different take on The End Of American Civilization As We Know It. (TEOACAWKI):

Wrong on moral collapse

and has this to say about the Doom-and-Gloomers:

"While activists and academics on the political left have always played the lead role in passionately promoting the many pernicious lies about America’s allegedly guilty past, it's mostly commentators on the cultural right who enthusiastically embrace the lies about the nation’s guilty present and doomed future. Looking down on previous generations and condemning our Founding Fathers as Indian-slaughtering, slave-owning, Euro-centrist, money-grubbing elitists can bring obvious psychic rewards to those who endorse such caricatures. If our ancestors deserve more condemnation than reverence, we face little obligation to live up to their ideals or examples and can feel free to make our rules, shape our own values, with an unshakable sense of greater wisdom and moral superiority. It’s much harder, however, to see the emotional or practical payoffs in apocalyptic hysteria about our current condition.

Smearing prior generations can enhance our sense of unique and unprecedented excellence (“Never trust anyone over thirty,” the notorious Baby Boomers once declared). Perhaps, in the same sense, the militant alarmism about our current moral state can promote the conviction that confirmed gloom-and-doomers are much smarter, more righteous, more attuned to horrifying realities than the obtuse people (or “sheepel,” as they are derisively designated) who refuse to acknowledge looming disaster."

and then goes on to discuss, in interesting detail, the whole self-fulfilling prophesy, while dismantling it at the same time.

"Iraq- Very interesting. Did you know?"

Here is a prime example of the kind of crap that circulates around the Internet in the guise of 'Christian awareness':

Christians and Urban Legends

You gotta love the threat at the end of the Iraq email:

" I BETTER NOT HEAR OF ANYONE BREAKING THIS ONE OR SEE DELETED This is a ribbon for soldiers fighting in Iraq. Pass it on to everyone and pray. Something good will happen to you tonight at 11:11 PM. This is not a joke. Someone will either call you or will talk to you online and say that they love you. Do not break this chain. Send this to 13 people in the next 15 minutes. Go."

Doesn't that just make you want to go out and find a Christian church, right now? Yet this is the kind of moronic nonsense that is being pandered about as 'Christian'.

Actually, it really makes me want to go forth, withdraw my life savings, and send it all to Joel Osteen or Pat Robertson. Or maybe Rude Rudy's campaign fund, because Pat and Rudy are going to make sure they never take "In God We Trust" off our nickels, and return us to being a "Christian nation".

But first, I guess I need to find out which version of 'the inerrant Biblical truth' is approved for instructing heathens in The One True Way, and whose version of Christ is the One True Version. Meself, I find the Tanakh and the NRSV to be perfectly adequate, but then, I'm apparently an unwitting heathen...or perhaps a witless heathen, depending on your source.

11/28/07

White man speak with forked tongue

"So, I see that some of the supporters of PCEOC have taken to using 'broken promises' and 'failure of compromise' as examples of how the Army is not to be trusted," observed Tookie. We were sitting on the rail of The Holy Land Bridge Over the Arkansas, sipping cappies from Quickee's and watching the sunset.

"Yep," I agreed.

"I really liked the one about failed compromises," said DinkyDau Billy.

"How so?" asked Leece.

"Well...it's a dog that don't hunt in this application, much like the ranchers trying to use access to all them archaeological and environmental treasures as a bargaining chip or rallying point after so many years of denying access," he said.

"Explain that," demanded Tookie.

"Hah. Well. Where did the ranchers get all this land?" asked Billy, "from the local real estate agent?"

"Ummmm..." ruminated Leece.

"White man speak with forked tongue," said Billy, "ask the Injuns what were here before whose land it is. I don't think you will hear them saying it belonged to a bunch of white meat. Seems to me that they's bein' ...'culturally selective' in how they remember stuff and how they apply it to the current sitchy-ashun. Hey. Hey. Snag the kid!"

Tookie was giggling so hard at Billy's comment she had slipped off the rail and was on the way into the river. He made a grab for her and got her by the scruff of her jacket.

Setting her back on the rail, he snickered, "That was a pretty good one, hey?"

"Sure was. Amazing, ain't it, how one Injun's goose can become a white man's gander? I can't believe they are that oblivious that they would use that argument. They got their hooks into it through outright theft and 'failed compromise'. So I guess they oughta know about all that, huh?"

"There's a lot of emotional pukery goin' on," Billy observed, "and it's makin' the Army's job a lot easier. These guys is spinnin' their wheels and the Army's gonna come in an' pick 'em off. Hope you gots an alternative means a makin' a livin' planned out."

"We're going to work from home, sending out subscriptions to Christian newsletters based on parking lot theology, emotion, and bad scholarship," explained Tookie.

"Yeah?"

"Yeah. I figger we can send out newsletters like those chain e-mails that keep going around. Like that one about Eye-rack and that '9-11' verse out of the Koran. People will actually sign up for that stuff and pay money for it. We can sit at home and come up with all kinds of biblical interpretations and sell it as 'Christian news'. The fundies will go nuts over it."

"No, you will do no such thing, young lady," Leece rather emphatically stated.

Billy and Tookie put on their best kicked puppy looks.

"Oh, I dunno, Leece, " I said, "there's good money to be made in selling evangelical goods. Look at all those 'prosperity preachers'. Shoot. A good laptop and a copy of a Bible...the KJV would be best, I think, the NRSV would be way too liberal for most and why would we want to use the version most used by scholars...yeah, we could make some bucks off this!"

I got that raised eyebrow look.

Billy, Tookie, and I sat there looking like kicked puppies.

"I think we should do it on the sly," Tookie whispered.

"Shhhh...".

More on schools and safety compliance

Until recently, Colorado's fire departments had no authority to inspect schools. Fire departments conduct fire safety programs for kids in the schools, such as the smoke wagon exercises we see the La Junta Fire Department/Rural Fire District conducting every year. Fire departments can inspect if the school district allows them to, and some of ours have.

Fire inspections come under the Department of Labor's Division of Oil and Public Safety. This has been a bone sticking in the fire chiefs' collective craws:

"The Colorado State Fire Chiefs Association, which represents about 300 chiefs, says it has been trying for years to transfer responsibility for school inspections from the state Oil and Public Safety Division in the Department of Labor to either local officials or the Fire Safety Division in the Department of Public Safety. But they were rebuffed, caught in a turf war between the state and local school boards.

The Department of Labor, meanwhile, acknowledged it didn’t have enough inspectors, but still insisted on retaining control."

and:

"
“I haven’t seen a state inspector in 20 years,” Deputy Lake Dillon Fire Chief Jeff Berino, who is responsible for schools in Frisco and Silverthorne, complained recently."

and then we have that old bureaucratic standby, 'the personnel matter':

"
State building official Eric Gillespie, who replaced Horn, told The Associated Press that his boss, Richard Piper, took away his authority to issue occupancy certificates earlier this year after he ordered students in an Aurora charter school to move out when he found numerous fire code violations.

He said Piper allowed the Lotus School for Excellence, with about 150 middle school students and teachers, to remain open in February despite violations such as a lack of fire escapes, fire alarms and sprinkler systems. He also said Piper issued the certificate of occupancy, even though he is not certified as an inspector.

Piper refused to discuss his relationship with Gillespie and referred all other questions to the attorney general’s office because, he said, it involved a personnel matter."


Schools are notorious for non-compliance with building and other codes as well.

Is all this why we saw such interesting slides to justify 3A?

What kind of product are we going to get for the $2.5 million bond, that is going to end up costing us, when all is said and done, in excess of $4 million? We have already seen that the old gym was in non-compliance across the board - electrical, fire, plumbing, construction.

What can we expect with the new gym?

For more, see this article:

http://www.vaildaily.com/article/20070810/NEWS/70810055

11/27/07

Mo' free munny

Colorado's Office of Smart Growth:

Smart Growth

It's run out of DOLA, Dept of Local Affairs - same outfit that brought in the CAP assessment/forums - and last year, OSG handed out $400,000 in Smart Growth grants.

They maintain a listserv:

Smart Growth Listserv

in order to "to help keep Colorado communities up to date on the latest conferences, workshops, grant programs, position vacancies, RFQs and RFPs, and more."

They have a staff of two: a director, and a minion.

How did I come across this?

Well, it seems that one of our Boulder Democrats in the Gen'rul Assembly wants you to feel more of the pain of owning a gas-guzzler:

"Rep. Claire Levy, D-Boulder, says she's considering legislation that would impose a one-time "gas guzzler" tax — probably in the range of $80 to $100 — on the purchase of vehicles that get poor gas mileage. Levy said she's still working on the specifics but that she'll probably set the threshold at 20 or 25 miles per gallon."

What would she do with that munny so collected?

"Levy's proposal would take the money that results and give it to the state's Office of Smart Growth. That office today only has two employees — Levy said they jokingly refer to themselves as the "cubicle of smart growth" — but she hopes her bill would fix that.

That office could, through workshops or grants, help local governments do a better job of planning growth that doesn't rely so heavily on cars, Levy said. Last year, the office handed out $400,000 in smart-growth grants."

Boulder lawmaker targets gas guzzlers

So...we want to add a surcharge...tax... to vehicle prices, to collect mo' munny from the taxpayers, so we can hire more state employees to give away mo' munny collected from the taxpayers.

Yep. Sounds like the answer to all our troubles. I wonder...perhaps we could collect a surcharge from city utility users. The more they use, the higher the surcharge, and we could create an Office of Utilities Management to award grants to people who will be adversely affected by the inevitable rate hikes coming down the pike. Not rich people, of course. They already have enough money. I mean people on fixed income. Because, you see, once the gummint takes the money, it becomes ...The People's Money! and then we can give it back to The People. The only bone of contention, of course, is which people, but I'm sure we can settle that as efficiently and as effectively as with any other government-run program.

11/25/07

Roll Call

So we were sitting around the table, having polished off a rather large pot of ham and bean soup, with homemade yeast biscuits. The thuglets were all downstairs watching something educational. "Big Trouble in Little China", I think it was. Learning about Chinese economics or some such thing. Crazy Bob had hied off to Colorado Springs, where he was to meet his One True Love, a biker babe who ran a tattoo parlor behind a liquor store and pawn shop over in the Sand Creek district.

"Hey. Hey. I wuz lookin' at that City Charter," Billy announced. He sat there looking pleased with himself.

"And?" Leece asked.

"Well, they's required to do a roll call vote on things like ordinances," Billy said.

"That's my understanding of it, " said I.

"But they don't," Billy said, "What they do is flip those switches all together and that's that."

"What are they supposed to do?" I asked.

"Well, they's adopted Robert's Rules of Order," Billy said, "so they have to call each member by name, in turn, with the presiding officer last, and each member has to give a "Yea" or "Nay" vote by voice. If they use an electronic method, they are still supposed to do it by roll call in the same way. And that secret ballot thing is a pile a horse crap. That dog don't hunt. If'n they got a legitimate reason fer goin' to executive session, that's what they should do."

"What does Robert's Rules have to say about electronic voting?" I asked.

"Same deal. If they use electronic voting they are supposed to follow the rules for regular, conventional voting as closely as possible. In other words, there is still supposed to be a roll call, but they can flip red or green rather than answer verbally. Hey. Hey. Don't you think if the Congress of these United States wanted to install a buncha lights they would? But they still have to show up for roll call votes, and they still have to answer a roll call by name. And here's another thing...every meetin' in every other city other than The Smile Hi City starts off with the Pledge of Allegiance. I bin to council meetins in Fowler, and The Holy Land, and Rocky Vegas, and school board meetins', and other public bodies, and that's what they do. But not in La Junta. Huh. Huh. And ya know what? It's summa them characters from La Junta what's circulatin' that Obama pitcher, too. Talk about a pot callin' a kettle black. No racial overtones intended." Billy paused for breath.

"Obama? Picture?" Tookie asked.

"Yeah. Yeah. The one where he is standing there and he doesn't have his hand over his heart while The Hill and Richards and some other hack all do, for the Star Spangled Banner. Then the copy with the pitcher asks, "Is this guy fit to be commander-in-chief?", and then it goes on about him refusin' to ree-cite the pledge. Even though it's the Star Spangled Banner that's at issue. Dumb stuff."

"Ah. Another example of flag-waving pin-wearers coming to grips with the vital issues of the day," Toot Sweet said, sagely.

"Yeah. Yeah."

"Well, there's a lot of that going around, " observed Leece.

Indeed there is.

Schools and fires

From The Vail Daily:

Neglected schools no surprise, Colo. firefighters say

Similar articles appear in several other Colorado newspapers.

Bedfellows

We were having a post-Thanksgiving cappie over at The Holy Land Quickee's.

"Purty innerestin', some of the stuff that goes on around here," observed DinkyDau Billy.

"How so?" asked Leece, as she sprinkled a bit of nutmeg over her English Toffee cappie.

"Well, when I used to ride around down south, sometimes I'd ask them ranchers if'n I could ride my bike out on those lands, you know, to just look at all them archaeological and environmental treasures. It was jist me and...lemme see...I was on my Cannondale back then. Yep. Jist me on a bicycle," he explained.

"And?" she asked.

"They all tole me to git. It was private land and I wasn't welcome," he explained.

"That was always my experience, too," I said, "when some years ago I was doing some articles on the pit houses down those parts. It's all private land. If they wanted people knowing about those archaeological and environmental treasures, they'd do their own articles, you see."

"Uh. Changed their tune somewhat, huh?" Billy noted.

"You betcha. Well, it is, of course, private land. And yes, they can, of course, deny access to pretty much anyone they want to. Private property. It really isn't up for a lot of debate, I'm sure we will all agree," Tookie said.

She was right.

But now, the ranchers are playing a different tune. Now, they want everyone to jump on their bandwagon, even the environmental groups they have ridiculed in the past as leftie pinko 'tree-huggers'. And according to the latest from The Sierra Club, that particular group is snuggled up in the sack with the ranchers.

You gotta wonder at what deals have been cut behind closed doors over that one.

"Nah, I think it's pretty simple," said Toot Sweet,"the ranchers really don't want we hoi polloi sniffing around down there. They want us to write our Congress critters and Senators and stick up for 'em, but when it comes down to it, they don't want anything else to do with us. Their attitude towards we townie types has always been 'screw you and the horse/bike/Jeep you rode in on.' Take a look at that thing in the paper by that whatsername from Cheraw if you want to see what they think of city types. Certainly, they do not want us down there among all those archaeological and environmental treasures. And neither does The Sierra Club. I would not be surprised to see that the ranchers have cut a deal with the Sierra Club, giving their members access in return for this sudden support."

"Really. Do you know that to be the case?"

"Nope. Just conjecture. But it sure does fit, doesn't it? The Sierra Club is a fairly high end group of yuppies and wealthy people who can afford nice jaunts down to the Purgatoire and Pinon area ranches. Shoot. Those ranchers might even make some money off 'em, putting them up, feeding them, renting them horses, guides, and all that. And, the Sierra Club types won't have to mingle with we commoners. It's a win-win for them." Toots was on a roll.

"Wow. How's that fit with all those 'Good Neighbor' values and principles they were going on about a couple of months ago?" Billy asked.

Tookie got some cappaccino up her nose, she laughed so hard.

Really strange bedfellows

A couple of months ago, a number of ranchers from the Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site area attended a "Good Neighbors" forum at OJC.

Kimmi Lewis, who ranches down that way, was a key player in getting the word out about the forum. At the forum, she and other ranchers espoused their conspiracy theories about The Nature Conservancy and other environmental groups. Listening to them, one can easily walk away thinking that such groups are all whoring for the Federal government in some intertwined, convoluted manner.

Now, PCEOC is pimping The Sierra Club as an ally. In their latest online newsletter distribution, they are circulating the editorial by Robb Vincent, in the Pueblo Chieftain. That editorial lambastes the Army over land use. Vincent is a senior policy advisor for...The Sierra Club.

I would really like for someone to explain to me the apparent disparity, in how PCEOC and/or the landowners down that way can on the one hand rant and rave against the environmentalist groups as part of a vast governmental consipiracy, and on the other, embrace them in their newsletter as allies.

Here is an interesting excerpt from some editorial work in another land and access issue, over in Hidalgo County:

"David Brower, Sierra Club’s first executive director, and supporter of the Wildlands Project, explained in 'E' magazine how environmental organizations have built their system to make their agenda appear main stream: “The Sierra Club made the Nature Conservancy look reasonable. Then I founded Friends of the Earth to make the Sierra Club look reasonable. Then I founded Earth Island Institute to make Friends of the Earth look reasonable. Earth First! now makes us look reasonable. We’re still looking for a group to come along and make Earth First! look reasonable.”

This statement was made in 1990. Today, we have the Wildlands Project, Center for Biological Diversity, Forest Guardians, Range Net, and the Earth Liberation Front (ELF!) among approximately 1400 other “environmental” organizations that are massaging the public into believing their claims. Some of these organizations tend to make other environmental organizations appear moderate in comparison to their extremist positions. Many are supported by large foundation and government grants."

The Wildlands Project Comes to Hidalgo County - Part 7

Judi Keeler, who wrote that, sounds a lot like Kimmi Lewis at that "Good Neighbor" forum.

So what's the deal?

Political opportunism makes strange bedfellows indeed. Our Sons of the Soil down in the Pinon Canyon area do not seem to be immune to this.

11/24/07

From the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal

Guns and the Constitution

Is the Second Amendment an individual, or collective, right?

Saturday, November 24, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST

In recent decades, the Supreme Court has discovered any number of new rights not in the explicit text of the Constitution. Now it has the opportunity to validate a right that resides in plain sight--"the right of the people to keep and bear arms" in the Second Amendment.

This week, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case of District of Columbia v. Heller. In March, the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit declared unconstitutional the District's near-total ban on handgun possession. That 2-1 ruling, written by Judge Laurence Silberman, found that when the Second Amendment spoke of the "right of the people," it meant the right of "individuals," and not some "collective right" held only by state governments or the National Guard.

That stirring conclusion was enough to prompt the D.C. government to declare Judge Silberman outside "the mainstream of American jurisprudence" in its petition to the Supreme Court. We've certainly come to an interesting legal place if asserting principles that appear nowhere in the Constitution is considered normal, but it's beyond the pale to interpret the words that are in the Constitution to mean what they say.

However, it is true that, despite our vitriolic policy fights over gun control, the Supreme Court has rarely ruled on the Second Amendment. The Court last spoke in detail in 1939, in U.S. v. Miller, involving a bootlegger who claimed the right to transport an unregistered sawed-off shotgun across state lines. That opinion was sufficiently complicated that both sides now claim it as a precedent.

The dispute arises from the first four words of the Second Amendment, the full text of which reads: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." If the first two clauses were omitted, there would be no room for ambiguity. But part of the legal controversy has centered around what a "well regulated militia" means.

Judge Silberman's opinion argued, with convincing historical evidence, that the "militia" the Framers had in mind was not the National Guard of the present, but referred to all able-bodied male citizens who might be called upon to defend their country. The notion that the average American urbanite might today go to his gun locker, grab his rifle and sidearm and rush, Minuteman-like, to his nation's defense might seem quaint. But at stake is whether the "militia" of the Second Amendment is some small, discreet group of people acting under government control, or all of us.

The phrase "the right of the people" or some variation of it appears repeatedly in the Bill of Rights, and nowhere does it actually mean "the right of the government." When the Bill of Rights was written and adopted, the rights that mattered politically were of one sort--an individual's, or a minority's, right to be free from interference from the state. Today, rights are most often thought of as an entitlement to receive something from the state, as opposed to a freedom from interference by the state. The Second Amendment is, in our view, clearly a right of the latter sort.

As a practical matter on the Court, the outcome in D.C. v. Heller might well be decided by one man: Anthony Kennedy, the most protean of Justices. However, in recent years he has also been one of the most aggressive Justices in asserting any number of other rights to justify his opinions on various social issues. It would seriously harm the Court's credibility if Justice Kennedy and the Court's liberal wing now turned around and declared the right "to keep and bear arms" a dead letter because it didn't comport with their current policy views on gun control. This potential contradiction may explain why no less a liberal legal theorist than Harvard's Laurence Tribe has come around to an "individual rights" understanding of the Second Amendment.

By the way, a victory for gun rights in Heller would not ban all gun regulation, any more than the Court's support for the First Amendment bars every restraint on free speech. The Supreme Court has allowed limits on speech inciting violence or disrupting civil order. In the same way, a judgment that the Second Amendment is an individual right could allow reasonable limits on gun use, such as to protect public safety.

Here's hoping the Justices will put aside today's gun control passions and look to the plain language of the Bill of Rights for instruction in this case, as Judge Silberman had the courage to do.

11/23/07

School fire inspections

Anyone who sat through the presentations for Amendment 3A, which was the bond issue to fund a new gym, had to wonder at what's been going on regarding maintenance and upkeep in the old gym. We were treated to slide after slide of images showing substandard wiring, substandard structural repairs, substandard plumbing, and indifferent routine maintenance.

I wondered, "Who inspects these repairs? Who is responsible for such shoddy, slipshod work? Have we the taxpayer actually had to pay for this crap? Who handles oversight for these matters? When they repair this mess, are they going to use the same incompetent morons who created the mess that we now see before us?"

Velva Addington said the district has a budget for this stuff. She also said that the fire district had inspected the building within the last year. Both statements appear to be false.

At the last Swink school board meeting, I asked if the repairs for the old gym had been prioritized and budgeted for in the next year's budget. I was told that they were waiting to see how 3A went. In other words, they did not.

That begged the question. In each of the presentations, we the taxpayers, the people who are now going to have our taxes jacked to pay for the 3A bond issue, were told that the old gym would continue to be used, at least at the same level as it is now, possibly even more so.

So would it not seem logical to assume that the district would have some plan in place to correct the fire and other safety problems? I could understand no action being planned or budgeted if the old building were going to be taken out of service. But it was going to continue in service no matter the outcome of 3A.

So that was the next question. "Did you have a plan and budget prior to 3A?"

The answer was, they did not. It's no wonder the old building is in such sorry shape. So where does that leave us?

At this point, there is no answer to that. In addition to there not being any plan in place now or previously to correct all the deficiencies, the fire department advises that there has been no inspection in the time frame cited by Addington.

Meanwhile, here is an interesting article. Given the discrepancies illustrated by the 3A presentations, and the confusion within the school district about fire inspections, repairs, and budgeting therefore, one can only wonder at the condition of the rest of the school buildings and how well they comply with the fire and building codes:

Call7 Investigator Theresa Marchetta investigates school fire safety after a recent school fire put students at risk (aired Thursday night on 7NEWS at 10) . . .

Fire Inspectors Call Schools 'Unsafe'

Dozens of Code Violations Found

Theresa Marchetta, 7NEWS Anchor

November 8, 2007

Jefferson County – School fires happen. There are nearly 15,000 every year in the U.S. Who is checking to make sure our schools are safe?

Call7 Investigator Theresa Marchetta went along on school inspections with West Metro Fire Rescue. Its inspectors said time and time again they find schools that are unsafe or have unsafe practices.

Teacher Linda Grotzke has seen the destruction school fires can cause firsthand. "When I walked through the door, I almost cried. This was the only time I cried. I looked at the walls; the wires were hanging out of the ceiling," Grotzke recalled.

She and her students moved back into Weber Elementary in Arvada last month after an arson fire damaged or destroyed much of the school, including her fourth-grade classroom.

More than 30 years of her teaching materials and mementos were destroyed.

West Metro fire investigators want to prevent that type of destruction. "I need to see in every room, every locker," said Lt. Shawn Bowman.

He was inspecting Dennison Elementary when Jefferson County Schools gave us total access to their fire inspection. Immediately, a violation was found.

Plants cannot be hung from the ceiling because the tiles are designed to slow the spread of fire. Any buckling or breaks in the seams, and you lose that protection.

It also violates the fire code to have wires running through holes in the ceiling since those holes provide another path for fire to spread quickly.

Inspectors said wires are not allowed through ceilings, floors, doors or walls, but they found this time and time again.

A 2-foot clearance to the ceiling is also required in every room of the school, but inspectors found boxes stacked all the way up. The stacks of boxes provide a fuel-filled ladder for fire to climb.

Inspectors found emergency lights out and exits blocked.

Even too much art on the walls, more than 50 percent, is a violation because it provides fuel for a fire to burn up the walls.

West Metro said what it found at Dennison is the norm, not the exception. They found 11 general violations but have found hundreds of other hazards at schools across the district.

A new law passed in July of this year gave local fire departments the authority to enforce the fire code in schools.

Now, if schools do not correct violations, fire departments can issue fines, stop work orders and mandatory evacuations. Schools can even be shut down if they are deemed unsafe.

Although all departments have the authority to enforce the fire code in schools, that does not guarantee they will use it.

Inspectors recommend you check with your local fire department to learn more about its school inspection program.

____________________________________

Colorado State Fire Chiefs' Association
Paul L. Cooke, Executive Director
PO Box
3945
Englewood
, CO 80155
Phone: (720) 874-8116
Fax: (720) 862-2181

www.colofirechiefs.org

11/21/07

"A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong gives it a superficial appearance of being right. "

DinkyDau Billy and Crazy Bob were sitting at the dining room table. They were slurping feaux-feaux coffee with some kind of flavored - as Billy put it - 'light on the skids' creamer. They were snuffling some hot-out-of-the-oven pumpkin bread with chopped walnuts sprinkled on top. Leece was putting the finishing kneads on some bread dough.

"Hey. Hey. This is pretty good stuff," Billy said, as he polished off his second mini-loaf.

"Yeah. Sure is. I ain't had nuthin' like this in a long time, Leece," Bob added.

"Well, you guys snuffle all you want; there's lots more where that came from," she told them.

Tookie refilled their coffee cups, then made herself another triple 'spresso. I shuddered to think at the impending levels of hyperactivity. Well, we could always send her home about the time she started swinging from the ceiling fans.

"Hey. Hey. Wuttabout that 'secret vote' the other night?" Billy asked.

"Yeah, I noticed that too, " said Bob, "what's the deal? It's supposed to be an open meeting, under the Open Records/Sunshine laws. It wasn't an executive session. So what was up with that?"

"You'll notice Councilman Bob rather genteely raised the question," Leece noted.

"Yeah, he did, and he got told that was the way they always do it," Billy flipped back.

"I'm sure that the city attorney would not let the council do anything that wasn't on the up-and-up," Leece observed.

"Tell that one to Vic Aldea and the voters," snickered Billy.

There was a general commotion as we all mopped up spilled coffee and Bob shook about half a cup out of his beard, where it had sprayed. "Billy! Man! Don't do that while I'm drinkin' hot coffee!" He was somewhat perturbed.

"Why don't you guys go out and baste the turkey," Leece suggested. The big roaster with the first turkey was in the garage. Putting it out there gave her more room in the kitchen. Me too, since I was her scullery maid. I have many talents other than heathen photographer and general factotum. Of course, we were deprived of the deliciously savory smell of roasting turkey, but at least we had some elbow room.

"And don't shoot the dogs and cats," she said. The neighborhood critters were all sitting around the door to the garage workshop wherein reposed the roaster. They suffered no olfactory deprivation.

"If you do, toss 'em in the neighbor's yard," I advised.

I got the raised eyebrow look.

"And Bob. No basting with Jack Daniel's," she warned.

The rest of us were crestfallen. Even Tookie. She loves the Jack Daniel's sauce up at TGIF. So does Froggy.

"Oh. Sure. Right. You betcha, Leece," Bob acquiesced. There was a surreptitious series of 'wink wink nudge nudge' all around.



"A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong gives it a superficial appearance of being right."

- Thomas Paine

Thomas Paine, for the uninitiated, is the author of Common Sense (1776), The Crisis (1776-77), The Rights of Man (1791-92), Age of Reason (1794, 1796) among others.

Common Sense became the best-selling work in America in the 18th century. It was crucial in stirring up the colonists sufficiently to launch the revolution. Washington ordered it read to the Continental Army on Christmas Day, 1776, just before the crossing of the Delaware River and the subsequent major asswhuppin' the patriots administered to the Hessians at the Battle of Trenton the next day.

11/18/07

Fundamentalists rant and rave

Once again we see Fundamentalists ranting and raving, shrieking 'Insult!' over a bit of commentary.

But this time, it isn't the Islamofascist Fundies. It's Christian Fundies.

It seems the Ohio attorney general had the poor taste to crack a funny in an email. He remarked, concerning bad press, "Jesus had it better on Good [sic] Friday".

This has the Ohio Christian Alliance foaming at the mouth, demanding an apology. So far, they don't seem to be insisting that the AG, Marc Dann resign or be fired.

Dann is a Democrat. Naturally, the Republicans have joined the row, backing up the Ohio Fundies. That's not surprising, considering that Pat Robertson has endorsed Rude Rudy Giuliani, a candidate who has supported gay rights and abortion. Perhaps the Republicans feel they can distract the fundamentalists from that by going after Dann.

Whatever happened to forgiving? Whatever happened to 'turn the other cheek?'

Don't the Christian fundamentalists have more important fish to fry? Something like making sure no one takes 'In God We Trust' off our nickels?

Here is an interesting excerpt from the introduction of "Putting Away Childish Things", by Uta Ranke-Heinemann:

"...the Church isn't interested in understanding or enlightenment: every variety of enlightenment strikes it as suspicious, if not worthy of damnation. The Church speaks only about the hurt done to its religious feelings. It closely monitors such hurts and is often running to the courts. Unfortunately it pays too little attention to the hurt done to our religious intelligence, which has no legal protection..."

And this, about the nature of church leadership and the pastoral community:

"Human beings want to believe. People are therefore the ideal soil for the seed of religion. There's nothing wrong with that, as long as they're dealing with God himself, because people can trust God not to hoodwink them. But we humans deal not so much with God as with his authorized deputies. Since they assure us that it's all for our eternal happiness and salvation, we let them tell us many tales. Believers accept without question what they're taught to believe and do, because when authority comes forward bearing a mandate from God, doubt seems to be a sin."

Hah.

The very nature of too many of the so-called "Christian" churches these days gives one pause to wonder...do they have any idea of what Christ was about?

Or are they too busy playing the New Pharisees?

The most dangerous threat to the civil liberties of Americans is not George Bush and the Islamic Fundamentalists. It is Christian Fundamentalists. They are much closer to home and have their fingers in the Constitutional pie, and they are driven to return us to that tall tale that we were founded as a "Christian nation".


11/17/07

Another goodie from the Religion of Peace

Saudi court ups punishment for gang-rape victim

Excerpts:

A court in Saudi Arabia increased the punishment for a gang-rape victim after her lawyer won an appeal of the sentence for the rapists, the lawyer told CNN.

The 19-year-old victim was sentenced last year to 90 lashes for meeting with an unrelated male, a former friend from whom she was retrieving photographs. The seven rapists, who abducted the pair and raped both, received sentences ranging from 10 months to five years in prison.

The victim's attorney, Abdulrahman al-Lahim, contested the rapists' sentence, contending there is a fatwa, or edict under Islamic law, that considers such crimes Hiraba (sinful violent crime) and the punishment should be death.

"After a year, the preliminary court changed the punishment and made it two to nine years for the defendants," al-Lahim said of the new decision handed down Wednesday. "However, we were shocked that they also changed the victim's sentence to be six months in prison and 200 lashes."

The judges more than doubled the punishment for the victim because of "her attempt to aggravate and influence the judiciary through the media," according to a source quoted by Arab News, an English-language Middle Eastern daily newspaper.

11/16/07

"A grateful nation..."

We were sitting on the bench down at 3rd and Colorado. DinkyDau Billy was snuffling a deep-fried pork chop. Crazy Bob was gnawing on a chicken leg. They had been dumpster diving behind Ringo's. Bob had foregone his Mad Dog 20 20 and was drinking a bottle of feaux-feaux French water. He was also looking at a catalog from Speedgoat. Billy's Ghisallo had gotten him interested in a bit of a life-style change.

"Hey. Hey. You guys followin' that mess about the VA and Ty Zeigel?" Billy asked.

We allowed as how we were not.

"Huh. Huh. Well, he got his face burned off and lost his arm and got a piece of his skull blown off and some of his brains went with it," Billy shared, "he was a Marine what was wounded in Eye-rack."

"Uh huh. Let me guess. The VA is screwin' him around, right?" Crazy Bob interjected.

"Yep. Yep. They wuz dancin' him around till CNN got a-holt a his story, and then they pulled their fingers and head out and got him taken care of, kindasorta," Billy went on, "but then in the CNN article there was this: 'VA Acting Secretary Gordon Mansfield said cases like Ziegel's are rare -- that the majority of veterans are moving through the process and "being taken care of." He also said most veterans are fairly compensated.' "

"Hah. That's a pile a (&#*@^%!$($," said Bob, causing Leece to give him the infamous raised eyebrow look.

"Uh...sorry," he said, contritely, "but it's just like what I went through with them people. Hey, in the article, the best one is this: '"Any veteran with the same issue, if it's a medical disability, ... it is going to get the same exact result anywhere in our system," he said.'"

Tookie snickered. "Isn't that the problem?" she asked, "they're getting 'the same result'. What about that guy who came home riddled with shrapnel holes and the VA told him it wasn't 'service-connected'. What kind of idiots do they have working there?"

There was a momentary silence as we reflected on this. There was little traffic, and we were able to hear a flapping noise. We glanced over to the west and saw:


Leece looked at DinkyDau Billy and Crazy Bob and took their hands in her own. Tookie got up and gave them hugs.

"Thanks, guys," she said, "even if the VA is a screwed-up bunch of bureaucrats, and the Congress is a bunch of political whores that won't do anything about it, we love you."

Leece didn't even bat an eye over Toot Sweet's 'political whores'.


Wounded warriors face home-front battle with VA


11/15/07

Solving America's Food Care Crisis: The Single Payer Plan

Reposted with permission of the author. You can find this one and the rest of the 'Barticles' here:

A.Barton Hinkle's 'Barticles'


Government Can Solve the Food Crisis, Too

Tuesday, Nov 13, 2007 - 12:09 AM

By A. BARTON HINKLE
RICHMOND TIMES-DISPATCH COLUMNIST

My fellow Americans,

I am honored to be here today at the Springfield Homegrown Organic Produce Cooperative. I want to thank Artemis, Moonflower, Willow, and the rest of the S.H.O.P. cooperative board of directors for their invitation today, as well as for the lovely basket of soy nuggets, patchouli, and spirit beads. I cannot think of a better place to be to discuss America's food-care crisis, or to unveil my five-point comprehensive plan for solving the problem.

It is a disgrace that although we live in the richest nation in the world, there are still children who go to bed hungry in America. Statistics can provide only a snapshot. But the statistics tell us that 38 million Americans are considered "food insecure," meaning they are only one, two, or three paychecks away from having to choose between buying food and buying something else.

Food is essential to life itself, including the life of the children, who are our future. I want to tell you about Judy Williams, who is in the audience today -- Judy, would you stand up please? Judy's husband Bob lost his job of 30 years when the Betamax factory he was working in closed down. Without a steady source of income, the bills quickly piled up, and Judy and Bob were forced to cancel their cable TV service and their cell phones in order to buy food. That is just one small illustration of the tragedy of our current food-care system.

It doesn't have to be like this.

Food is simply too important to be left to the whims of the free market. It is long past time for our country to find a better way -- a way that costs less, offers more, and does it all by sticking it to the evil corporations of Big Grocery that have rigged the system against the American people. But change cannot happen overnight. And so, after months of consultation with a secret group of more than 2,500 food-care policy experts, I have devised a 63,700-page, single-spaced plan that will transition our country to a national system of single-payer food care, in five simple steps.

First, my plan begins by establishing tax incentives for employer-provided food coverage. Instead of buying food directly, as we do now, American families will be able to choose the groceries they want, and their employer-provided coverage will pay the bill at the checkout line. You will pay only a flat deductible or insurance copayment no matter how many grocery carts you fill up, so you will no longer have to worry about the cost of the food you choose to buy. This will help control prices.

Next, my plan mandates that employer-provided food insurance must be comprehensive. It is simply wrong for providers to anticipate denying coverage of exotic fruits like kiwi or mango simply because they cost more when they are not in season. Nor should Americans who are lactose-intolerant be forced to forgo dairy products -- so my plan makes sure that employer coverage will provide them with lactose-free alternatives. The same goes for individuals who can eat nothing but gila-monster eggs and bird's-nest soup.

Taxpayer-subsidized food insurance must not be allowed to control costs through the denial of coverage.

Some have argued that such mandates might increase the percentage of GDP we spend on food. I disagree. Nevertheless, because of a single sad anecdote I read in the paper the other day, my plan expands government involvement even further by offering direct, taxpayer-funded food coverage to families earning up to 1,800 percent of the federal poverty level, or $373,000 for a family of four. We will pay for this by raising taxes on the rich.

Step four of my plan, called Modified Choice, will create a system of national food care centers -- public groceries, in other words -- run by farmers and grocers on the government payroll. Everyone will pay into the public-grocery system, even those who choose to shop at a private grocery store. Each public grocery will be run by a local public-food bureaucracy, and the quality of individual public groceries will be determined by standardized testing.

Families will be assigned to a public grocery store near them and forbidden to go shop at a different public store. This will help ensure that their assigned store remains attentive to their needs. If a particular public store performs poorly, this will be considered proof that its employees should be paid a lot more.

The final phase of my plan, called Total Choice, will require everyone to shop at a public grocery store. It will ration scarce groceries through long lines instead of high prices. No one will have to pay directly for any food they consume; they will simply present their food-rationing card at the checkout counter and take whatever is given to them. Farmers and grocers will get paid the same whether they produce groceries for their customers or not.

I am sure you will agree with me that this will solve all our problems.

Thank you.

My thoughts do not aim for your assent -- just place them alongside your own reflections for a while.

-Robert Nozick

11/14/07

"The benefits of gratefulness..."

Leece has a new post over on Yahbut:

The benefits of gratefulness


Well, he did it...

The other day Leece and I went to that 9 to 5 Working Women's thing at the Senior Center. It was one of those "Payday to Payday" events, and though there were some good points made with which we both agreed, we found that it was mostly one of those deals that can only be described as an event in modern American socialism. In other words, how can we get more tax bux to redistribute. "The wealthy can afford to pay more taxes," one fellow said.

That may be true, but I was not aware that this country was founded on the concept of being successful in business, taking all the risks in business, so as to be able to pay more taxes in order to support more people who didn't.

It's a bit more complex than that, of course...or maybe it isn't. That is an argument for the ages.

But one of the topics was how Dubya was threatening to veto "The Bill" unless there were some cuts in various programs.

Well, he did it. He vetoed The Bill. Here is the article:

Bush vetoes spending bill

Some interesting excerpts:

"The majority was elected on a pledge of fiscal responsibility, but so far, it's acting like a teenager with a new credit card," he said in a speech in New Albany, Indiana.

The bill -- which Bush said was laden with $10 billion in "pork" -- would have funded the departments of Labor, Education, and Health and Human Services. It also would have funded projects such as a prison museum, a sailing school and a program to teach Portuguese.

"Congress needs to cut out that pork, reduce the spending and send me a responsible measure that I can sign into law," the president said."

and

"Bush also demanded Congress reform the alternative minimum tax -- a measure originally aimed at preventing the wealthy from evading taxes, but one that increasingly affects middle-class earners -- without raising additional revenue. He said a plan proposed by Rep. Charles Rangel, the Democratic chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, to eliminate the tax was unacceptable.

"Preventing a tax increase in one area should not be an excuse for raising taxes in other areas," he said. "Congress should eliminate the tax increases in the bill and send the AMT relief to my desk as soon as possible."

The elimination of the tax would cause an estimated $800 billion to be lost over 10 years. To replace that, Rangel's bill would add a 4 percent surtax on individual incomes over $100,000, after deductions, and close corporate tax loopholes. The bill also would cut rates for many individual and corporate taxpayers. Republicans have already started calling it "the mother of all tax increases."

Those Dems do love to find innovative ways to raise taxes, don't they? Meanwhile, they are complaining that Bush vetoed the bill over "pure politics":

"This is a bipartisan bill supported by over 50 Republicans," Obey, D-Wisconsin, said in a statement issued after the veto. "There has been virtually no criticism of its contents. It is clear the only reason the president vetoed this bill is pure politics."

Bush said Democrats are supporting $22 billion in additional spending beyond his budget proposals this year and $205 billion over five years -- money he said would ultimately be raised by tax increases.

"When the bill for all that spending comes due, Congress is going to turn to the working people, to the small-business owners and the entrepreneurs," he said."

Kill off small business and entrepreneurs, and you kill off America. You don't have to be a graduate of the Wharton School of Bidness to see that. Or maybe you do. In the "9 to 5" meeting, one of the panelists, who had insisted that more funding is needed for social programs, was asked, "Where do you expect to get that funding?" After a moment of sitting there with a blank look, she said, "I don't know."

I once heard a local businessman say that if you are going to get into politics, you should be able to handle both sides of the budget. That is, you have to know where the money comes from, and have it in hand, before you spend it.

"I don't know." Indeed, madam, you do not. Nor, apparently, does our Congress, which is getting even lower approval ratings that President Bush.

11/13/07

Single-pay health care

"Last time I wuz reedin' about it, that Guvner's Blue Ribbon Committee on Health Care was lookin' at 15 billion bux and tappin' everone with a 8.1% additional income tax to pay fer it," Billy mused.

We were sitting on the bench in front of Ringo's. We were snuffling some WondeRoast and eating Cheetoes, washing it all down with diet Dr. Pepper. It wasn't a bad breakfast.

Leece wiped her orange fingers on my pants. Talk about taking liberties.

"Well...I haven't heard any of 'em say anything about medical ethics," she said, "which you would think would be a hot topic if you're going to let the government run healthcare."

"Ethics? Ethics? Wouldn't the Hippocratic Oath apply, even if it is a gummint-run program?" Billy asked.

"She isn't talking about that," Tookie explained,"she is talking about how and who makes the determination to treat patients with certain illnesses and diseases."

"Like...?" he asked.

"Well, suppose you have a terminal cancer patient. Nowadays, you do palliative treatment. But that sucks up a lot of resources, financially and medically. Why should you spend a couple of million bux on a patient you know is going to die anyway?" Tookie went on.

"Uh..." Billy was a bit speechless. Most people haven't thought about that, even though it is a hot topic in those circles discussing medical ethics.

"What about someone like Terry Chiavo?" Leece asked, "Who is going to make the decision to leave a patient like that plugged in? The doctors? The family? The government? Will Bill Ritter's Blue Ribbon Panel be appointed that authority?"

"That's pretty far-fetched," Billy argued. He was really whacked by this discussion.

"No, actually, it isn't," Tookie said, "some people blamed the city's health insurance premiums going up on my grandmother's being sick. She was going to die anyway. So why spend the money on her? Why should they have to foot higher insurance premiums? They didn't have the guts to come out and say it up front, but they sure enough booted it around in their gossip sessions. If it was up to them, I would never have known her. All you need to have is people like that in the right positions, and it's a done deal."

"Those dummies have no idea how insurance premiums are generated. Anyway, once you turn it all over to the government, you pretty much lose your say in it," I observed, "all the counter-opinions notwithstanding. There are only so many resources to go around. There is only so much money to go around. Somebody, somewhere, is going to have to do some fiscal triage. In the private industry, they just price people out. Free market type thing. With government, I guess they could always raise the taxes some more, but how much blood do they think they can squeeze out?"

"Yes. Well, you won't find the subject under 'medical ethics'. It's under 'utilitarian bioethics'," Tookie shared.

"That's some seriously warped thinking,dude!" exclaimed Billy.

"I dunno about warped. But they are certainly serious about it, my friend," I said.

We sat there munching on WondeRoast, thinking about the ramifications.

"I'd hate to be a registered Republican, terminally ill under a Democratic regime,if it were done that way," said Billy.

"I'd hate to be terminally ill under any regime, if that were the way it was," retorted Tookie.

"Well, perhaps we should consider Soylent Green?" asked the bum sitting on the ground by the storefront, sipping from his brown-paper wrapped bottle of Mad Dog 20-20.

"Dude! You keep on swillin' that stuff, you'll be red-lined by the gummint health board for your liver," Billy snickered.

"You keep on snufflin' that fried chicken, Cheetoes, and diet Dr. Pepper, you'll be red-lined, probably flat-lined, long before me," the bum said, picking his nose and examining the results with a critical eye.

"You a disabled vet?" asked Billy.

"Yeah. Iraqi Freedom. You?"

"Ummmhmmmm...that was a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...you gotta place?"

"Nope. Just breezin' through," the fellow said.

"You kin stay at my place, git cleaned up," Billy said, "wutsyername?

"مشوّش Bob", said our new chum.

"Wuts that mean?" Billy asked.

"Crazy Bob," he replied.

"Huh. Huh. Small world. You a grunt?"

Leece and I and Tookie walked on down toward the park, leaving Billy and Bob to swap stories.

11/11/07

The Union Scab

Mark Hillman has written an excellent editorial on Governor Ritter's latest sellout to labor:

Governor gives unions state bargaining power

Excerpts:

So, it appears the honeymoon is over for Gov. Bill Ritter, the business community and even some of his strongest backers in the media. (I know, a "three-way" honeymoon isn't a pleasant image, but you know what they say about politics and strange bedfellows.)

and

The same governor who vetoed last spring's labor bill because it lacked compromise and because the debate accompanying it was "over-heated," now avoids any meaningful dialogue whatsoever, including input from business leaders who once believed his business-friendly campaign mantra.

and

Until now, anyone who pointed out Ritter's various inadequacies - his dearth of legislative experience, his severely limited breadth on issues beyond criminal justice, and his general lack of preparation to lead a state government - was met with, "Well, yeah, but he's such a nice guy."

Now, Colorado can see that when forced to choose between doing what's best for our economy and throwing political plums to his labor overlords, Ritter knows where his loyalty must rest.

Veterans' Day

So over on that earlier post, " The leaders are often not worthy of those they lead", we have this comment from one of our Anonymous readers:

"So this war's outcomes are the fault of Pelosi & Reid?

Check Out Marlboro Marine"

To which I just had to reply. Now, mind you, I really don't know exactly what Anon was driving at but it seemed to me (presuming and surmising, both of which can be dangerous) Anon was being a bit snippy over the obvious insinuation on my part that Pelosi and Reid are less than desirable as leaders. Anon is correct in that. But then Anon also tossed in the link to The Marlboro Marine. I am not at all sure why. Is it to illustrate the longer term cost of a war? If so, I am neither shocked nor surprised for it is certainly nothing new. Does Anon think we should not go to war because of people like Blake Miller? I don't know. I'm not going to presume or surmise that much, but I will add that Billy is the perfect argument, along with those Gardens of Stone, against going to war based on testosterone-laden 'reasoning' rather than some more rational thought processes.. I don't know if this Anon is a long-term blog reader or is new or just reads when he is constipated, or whatever. In any case, here is the answer to Anon:

Oh good heavens above, Anon...of course not. Everyone knows it's the fault of the Bush/Cheney/Halliburton conspiracy. We could go so far as to add all the Democrats who voted for the war and/or its funding as well, but they either don't remember they did, or use the same excuse we get from city council: "We didn't understand what we were voting for". Personally, I think the country would be ever so much better if we had Nancy Pelosi as president and Harry Reid as Veep. Don't you agree?

The Marlboro Marine is an excellent story. Blake Miller and DinkyDau Billy are cut from the same cloth. Blake had Fallujah; Billy had Tchepone. They would understand each other perfectly, even if no one else does. Billy is Blake Miller, though of a different time. I doubt that many people have really gotten the real message behind Billy. Perhaps he has been both too subtle and, of late, too stable.

Since it's Veteran's Day, here's a rehash of How Billy Came to Town:

Christmas at Hardee's

and if you missed it, here is a bit of background on DinkyDau Billy:

Who are these people redux and scroll down to the middle.

11/10/07

Remember make a positive change and things will get better!

Rick on Raton said...

Interesting and Enlightening

The votes are in and the council is, for the most part, the same. My thoughts are as follows:

1.Cheryl's victory over Bob Smith would have produced a new council-person regardless of the the outcome. (Not pro or con)

2.Freidenberger narrowly won, and in the opinion of many, because of Kat's "Nader Effect." (Kat shouldn't have run)

3.The Mayor continues in his position by a landslide. (??)

4. Diane and Billy are neck and neck at the finish line. (At least some action)

5. Mestas shows how ignorant the people of La Junta are to the obvious. (??????!!!)

I am more recently retired than most in our community. It is saddening to see our town, region, and the Valley as a whole, in such a terrible amount of distress, while those who continue to complain sit idly in the "wings." With the exception of a small handful, those who criticize, those who point fingers, and those who wish for La Junta to be something better, do not care to lift so much as a figurative "piece of trash off the ground."

It is not just about the city council anymore. It is time to look at ourselves as individuals and as caretakers of our pride and dignity as citizens. It is time for the people of La Junta to show they care.

When the people lead, the LEADERS WILL FOLLOW. Think about that a moment........

Our city council is less than impressive. They are ego driven, and have no vision for the future. Their continued attempts to block new development to protect personal interests is not one or two or four council members' fault. It is the fault of everyone on the city council, and as a result our fault for voting them into office. I realize we have council members who speak up on occasion. What we really need is someone who isn't afraid to "kick the city council's ass at meetings!"

I am literally unnerved at the display of self centered decisions we as a city (city council)(we as citizens for electing them) continue to make. I need to drop kick myself for not running. If I was elected I would yell, scream, and ask questions at meetings until someone started thinking as a representative of the people rather than someone caught up in the glory of sitting on a small town council.

Let's take action as a community! If something seems "not right" CALL YOUR CITY COUNCIL PERSON. Ask them questions. Call your mayor, ask him questions. Demand what is right, and refuse what is wrong!

I am dedicating the next two months to finding people in our community who give a damn! I'm not going to waste my time complaining about the election results, or what has been done. I am planning on calling my council persons and Mayor to (respectfully) voice my opinion. Anyone who wants to join the bandwagon of noncritical, positive change in our community find me!!

Remember make a positive change and things will get better!

To which I reply:

Good day to you, Rick on Raton.

That was an interesting comment you made. You seem...frustrated. If so, welcome to the club. Be careful, however, lest you be branded as 'negative'.

Speaking of which...you really should start attending some of these board meetings. You'd be surprised at just who is negative and who is not.

For example...how many business opportunities have been missed because our Great Leaders, driven by those overinflated egos, have decided they don't like a particular economic development fellow, and start throwing up all kinds of bureaucratic roadblocks? It just won't do, you know, if you want to hang someone, and that someone is actually on the verge of bringing in the bacon.

So you - not you, Rick, but our Great Leaders - sit there and find fault with everything. Find something to whine about. Rather than find some way to make it work, find someway to throw up barriers, and do it in such a way that you manage to look like an ardent supporter of The Smile Hi City. But behind the scenes, you bend every opportunity over at every opportunity, and stick a cucumber up its figurative ass.

Meanwhile, create a smoke screen with stupidities such as pit bull ordinances, watering restrictions, and other nonsense. People focus on that, and you can continue to play your personal power games.

I'm waiting to see you at some of these meetings, bud. Meanwhile, speaking of calling your city council rep, how about giving Billie Johnson a call about that hospital board meeting report of his. The one where he blew it all off at the last council meeting with that, "If you want to know anything, see me after the meeting". We're still waiting for a return call. Meanwhile, what is going on up there, with those reduced employee numbers, increased millions for salaries...and an almost clandestine insistence that they reduce the trigger point for monitoring their profit margin.

11/9/07

Progress, Smile Hi City Style

Yesterday at the Urban Renewal Board meeting the 'motel guys' were in with more on their proposal.

As usual, Mack Burtis threw a hissy fit. This time, he apparently didn't have the capability to make any kind of decision over a fairly minor issue without having 'the packet' well in advance so as to 'study' it.

Last time, or maybe it was the time before last, he threw a fit because someone had the temerity to stick some papers in front of him while he was snuffling his lunch.

Which lunch, by the way, is on the taxpayer's dime, purchased with "The People's Money"...though whether out of the general fund, or the TID funds, is beyond me at this point. I love going to Urban Renewal meetings and snuffling on the public's dime. Want a free lunch? Go to an Urban Renewal meeting. You might even get to participate, so long as you don't interrupt Mack's munching.

It's that intransigence and obstinacy which has delayed the implementation of the latest iteration of the Storefront program.

It is also that intransigence and obstinacy that drives new business away.

"Sir, I'll get you anything you need," said the fellow from the motel. The desperation in his voice was apparent. Perhaps frustration as well. "Get off the effin' dime, man!" might have been more effective. Maybe the leadership will get the message when the motel goes in over in Lamar or Rocky Ford. Kind of like that biodiesel project we're still waiting on.

I guess they didn't teach Decision-Making 101 at the Naval Academy. I think the Air Force Academy might be able to furnish them the curriculum. If they ask nice and it doesn't interfere with lunch.

Jeez.

11/8/07

Borat endorses a candidate

“I cannot believe that it possible woman can become Premier of US and A - in Kazakhstan, we say that to give a woman power, is like to give a monkey a gun - very dangerous. We do not give monkeys guns any more in Kazakhstan ever since the Astana Zoo massacre of 2003 when Torkin the orangutan shoot 17 schoolchildrens. I personal would like the basketball player, Barak Obamas to be Premier.”

-Borat Sagdiyev


11/7/07

Diane speaks...

People could have voted, Blogmeister,
if they did not have a new address, got their ballots, etc. What is disappointing to me is that those of us that offered, & can see a way to better solutions, want citizen input, etc could not prevail. That few enough voters understood La Junta's crossroads. My race offered clear differences. My opponent is a nice guy, but he does not have the energy, or he has wrongheaded ideas, or did not understand for what he voted. This race will be up for an automatic recount. I don't know if I should exert any more effort. I walked, I talked to most of the people in my ward. If my values are so different from even half +2 of the people in my ward, then maybe it is time to concentrate my efforts on different pictures. Pinon Canyon, legislation on the state and national level, etc. A not well explained gym project in Swink passes, while a lodging tax fails in La Junta. Oh well, the voters have spoken.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Yep. People could have voted. Many did not. Though our exchanges with DinkyDau Billy are of course a warped bit of satirical comment on Life in The Smile Hi City and The Holy Land, I wasn't kidding about being able to pick up ballots from the trash. Quite a few people threw theirs away, and those ballots could have been voted. Either by the authorized voter, or someone like Billy.

I wouldn't wax so despondently were I you. Mr. Johnson should have been sucking wind the entire time, and though he won by 2 votes, he should be sucking wind now. He took a plain down home ass-whipping at the polls. You can say, "But he won...". Sure. That's the narrow view. But this is Smallville. For an incumbent in Smallville to win by 2 votes out of more than 600 cast is a political ass-whipping, and it is a measure of out of touch he is. I am reminded of the line spoken by the North Vietnamese commander in the closing moments of "We Were Soldiers", which is based on the first Battle of Ia Drang. I don't recall his exact words, uttered as he stood by the stacked corpses of his men, but it went something like this: "They'll see this as a victory. More of them will come. This is an American war now, and more, many more, will die before we persevere." No one is going to die as the result of the elections in Otero County, but it should be clear from the vote that Mr. Johnson does not enjoy a clear popularity. Quite the contrary. But rather than trying to mend fences and get council back on track in dealing with the vital issues of the day, I suspect we will see more of the recalcitrant, intransigent arrogance as in the past. But, there is the next election.

Congratulations are in order to Councilwoman-elect Cheryl Lindner. I have paid close attention to her commentaries during the election and I believe she will serve the community well on council.

We also owe a vote of thanks to Cat Walden. She ran against a very popular and very effective opponent in Councilman Bob, and also the well-funded Hyatt Machine. Looking at the vote spread, it is possible that she drew off enough votes from Hyatt to keep Jolene's fingers out of the La Junta City Council. For that, we owe Cat a great deal of gratitude. And if nothing else, the Kiva crowd remains unlikely to get its hands into the city's reserves, despite the current council's setting the stage for the pillage of the utilities reserves. What we really need is amendments to the city charter prohibiting council from getting its fingers into that particular till in unrestricted fashion. There should be a charter requirement that Council must have the concurrence of the Utilities Commission before taking those funds.

The lodging tax was doomed from the start, because of the behavior of council from the start, going back to their waffling over sales tax vs lodging tax despite the clear recommendations from the community in the form of those CAP forums. It was a clear case of the Gang of Four being swayed by two motel owners rather than listening to their constituents. And now, we continue to fall behind economically while surrounding communities continue to improve their positions. When I first came to La Junta 30 years ago, La Junta was the 'hub' of the lower Valley. The rest of the communities played second fiddle. There are historical analogies in the decline of the various empires throughout history. That may seem grandiose, but the principle is the same, empire or bucolic burg on the prairie. Without dynamic leadership with vision, no empire, tiny as it may be, will survive.

The real question now is whether or not this latest round of head-in-the-sand foolishness will take us all below a level from which we can recover.

Yeah, the voters have spoken. But there is always next time...

Do not falter, do not give up.

11/6/07

Election results

Swink's Amendment 3A:

246 Yes; 207 No

School Board Swink 33 (vote for 3):

Rocky Amrhein 272
Rocky Mueller 252
Larry Siegfried 242
Dianna Milenski 337

La Junta Mayor:

Rizzuto 867
Archuleta 258
Balicki 373

Utes Board Commissioner:

Sutherland 1130

Council member Ward 1:

Keith 104
Mestas 208

Council member Ward 2:

Rikhof 304
Johnson 306

Council member Ward 2:

Smith 270
Lindner 315

Council member Ward 3

Hyatt 212
Walden 97
Freidenberger 284

School board Otero R-1 (vote for 3)

Hansen 1267
Newby 973
James-Rose 852
Jackson 982

We have been assured by the appropriate government representative(s) that contrary to DinkyDau Billy's Machiavellian machinations, it is virtually impossible to cheat the system.

That said, and looking at that difference of 2 votes...I gotta wonder how many votes were cast from North La Junta or places other than The Smile Hi City by previous residents no longer living in town. How would anyone know?

11/5/07

A 'merkin tradition continued

"I still think you're missing an opportunity," Billy told Leece.

"How so?" she asked.

"Well, lookit him," he said, pointing at me as I sat there polishing off not a pork chop, but a Grammy's chocolate fudge cookie and a diet Dr. Pepper.

"What about me?" I asked.

"You got a La Junta ballot, right?" he pointed out, "cuz you still gots a house here in The Smile Hi City and you didn't change yer address over at the county clerk's."

"Well, I didn't get it because I still have a house; I got it because I never got around to changing my address," I amplified.

"Yeah. Yeah. I said that," he replied, peevishly.

"OK. Your point?" Leece asked.

"So what's to stop him from voting the La Junta ballot and then going to the clerk's office and getting a Holy Land ballot, and voting that one too?" Billy asked.

"Other than his good looks and winning personality," Billy added, with a slightly sarcastic tone.

"Well, overlooking your slightly sarcastic tone, it's because I'm honest," I said, "but you are correct. I could have voted that Smile Hi ballot, and I did go over to the clerk and get a Holy Land ballot."

"But they can compare those super-secret codes on the ballots, "Leece protested, "and then you've been bagged."

"No way," said Billy, "you jist scribble something on the outside of the envelope and then if you gits bagged, you deny ever sending in the Smile Hi ballot. Hey. Hey. It went to the wrong address. Who knows who got it?"

"Good point, Billy, they can't prove squat, can they?" I asked.

"Yeah. Yeah. An I know a feller who used to live in La Junta who now lives in North La Junta who got a Smile Hi ballot. The people who live where he used to gave him the ballot. He voted it. He didn't vote fer Hizzoner. How many times do you think that happens in our highly mobile society? And you know what? I knows another feller who lives in Pebbler now. Same deal. He voted his Smile Hi ballot. He didn't vote fer Hizzoner either, or any a them other candidates." Billy snorted some diet Dr. Pepper up his nose at the thought, "cuz he's still really hot about losin' his job over at the pickles and then them characters got all wrapped up in pit bulls and water restrictions and pooper scoopers and other vital issues of the day."

Voting. It's an American tradition. But it isn't a secret ballot any more.

Voting: An American Tradition

We were walking up Colorado from the Copper Kitchen. Billy was sitting on his favorite bench in front of Ringo's. He had a pile of papers spread out on the bench next to him, and he was gnawing on a deep-fried Ringo's pork chop.

"Hi Billy, what's up?" asked Leece.

"Shhh. I'm voting," he replied.

"Oh." We stood there watching as he printed his name on a ballot, then stuffed it into that so-called 'secrecy' sleeve, then put it in the envelope. He printed a return address on one side, and scribbled something on the signature line on the other side of the envelope. He put a stamp on it, then set it aside, and started doing the same routine on another ballot.

"BILLY! WHAT ARE YOU DOING!!!!" screeched Leece.

"It's an old 'merkin tradition. I got it from Chikaga. I'm stuffing the ballot box," he explained, "they've made it a lot easier these days with these mail-in ballots."

"Where'd you get those ballots?" I asked, looking at a pile of at least a couple of dozen.

"Garbage cans. Dumpsters. A lot of people don't vote. They just throws 'em away. I walked up and down the alleys over on Cimarron and Raton and Smithland and found these without a lot of trouble," he explained.

"But you're forging signatures! Those aren't your ballots!" Leece was all heated up.

"I ain't forgin' nuthin'. I'm signin' 'em all 'Mickey Mouse'. You just can't tell. And of course they's my ballots. The owners threw 'em away and I found 'em, so I'se recycling 'em."

"Billy, if you do this, I will never speak to you again," Leece was quite forceful in expressing her disgust.

"But...it's the 'merkin way."

"No, it is not. You are capitalizing on the government's laziness and stupidity, and this is a perfect example of two wrongs not making a right. You are shoving everything you ever did in the Army right into a pile of cow manure," she said.

Billy thought about that.

"Yeah...yeah. You're right," he sighed, as he gathered up the ballots and started tearing them up.

"But you don't have to be stupid about it. At least peel your stamps off. You can use them again," she pointed out.

"Yeah. Yeah. Hey. Hey. Wanna pork chop?" he asked, offering one that had not yet been gnawed upon.

"Don't mind if I do," she said, plunking down next to him and taking the chop,"they do a pretty good job with these, though I think their seasoning is missing something."

"Yeah. Yeah."

The American Way. You gotta love it.

11/4/07

The not-so-secret ballot

For starters:

Why mail in ballots are a bad idea from the Equal Justice Foundation.

Report on the 2003 Colorado Springs Mail In Elections, another analysis by Corry, Equal Justice Foundation.

Comments on ballot secrecy from Black Box Voting

Early voting and the loss of ballot secrecy from the North Carolina Coalition for Verified Voting.

11/2/07

Secret Ballot


We were sitting across the street from The Holy Land's Town Hall. We were snuffling some fudgesicles.

"See? See?" said Billy, "there it is. That there is a po-litikul sign advocatin' a particular ballot issue."

"Yes. It is," agreed Tookie.

"Hmmmm...so, does that mean the Town Board of Trustees is backing 3A?" I asked, "and if so, what if some of the town employees don't vote for it. Are their jobs in jeopardy?"

"Dunno. Dunno," confessed Billy, "but what about that lack a secrecy in the ballot this time around?"

"What do you mean?" asked Leece.

"Well...it's all mail in this time," he said, "and so they get the ballot in the envelope that has a printed return address on one side and a signature on the other. It ain't no secret ballot," he explained.

"Hmmmm...you're right," Leece said, "in a regular election you go in, they confirm who you are by ID, and give you a ballot. But you mark the ballot in the booth, and then you slide it into the box, and there is no way to tell which ballot is yours."

"Prezakly," he said.

"But that mail in thing is like absentee ballots, " Tookie pointed out.

"Yep. Sure is. But these aren't absentee ballots. Now if you are a businessman, for example, and you do a lot of business with a bank, for example, that supports a particular candidate, and that bank has a connection in the clerk's office, they can find out who you voted for," Billy shared.

"That's supposing a lot," Leece observed.

"Mebbe. Mebbe. But it still ain't no secret ballot, and if someone wanted to find out who was voting for...or not voting for a particular candidate, it wouldn't be hard to do," he insisted.

"You're right, of course. But something like that could never happen in The Smile Hi City...because We're All Friends After the Election, " explained Tookie.

"Uh huh. We've all seen how that works. Hey. Hey. Whaddya think about that "No Concealed Weapons Allowed" sign?"

"Well...I suppose they can do that if they want. It's a gummint office."

"Mebbe we orter should see about gittin' the NRA and GOA to take a shot at that," he said.

We all laughed.

"'Take a shot'," Tookie snickered, "Billy, you're a hoot."