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Monday, January 24, 2005

Computer Snafus


Having some major ones, which is why I'm only posting about once a week. Because of all the other  problems I'm dealing with, they've been shoved into the rumble seat.

Working on them now so I can get back to business.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Today in History…


…Louis XVI lost his head over the revolution.

Having just written about Thomas Paine, I was curious how the History Channel would portray the French Revolution in their Monday night special. (It will be rerun tomorrow, Saturday, at 8 pm for those interested.)

In brief, on May 6, 1789 the Commons (the Third Estate) broke away from the States-General, eventually being joined by some members of the First Estate (the clergy) to become the National Constituent Assembly in July of 1989. King Louis XVI reacted by firing his popular finance director Jacques Necker, whom he considered too sympathetic to the Commons, and, within days, the Bastille is stormed and taken. The following month the Assembly adopts their charter of basic liberties entitled "The Declaration of the Rights of Man." Two years later the National Assembly adopted the first French Constitution

As I mentioned before, Paine wrote a rebuttal to Englishman Edmund Burke's criticism of the French entitled "The Rights of Man" and shortly thereafter arrived in France to support their revolt against the monarchy. Knowing almost nothing about the French--or even being able to speak the language--he managed to become a member of the Assembly. Not long afterward, the French Assembly issued their "Declaration of the Rights of Man," and for the next two years Paine helped write their Constitution.

The History Channel managed to ignore those small facts. The only mention of America was how support of our Revolution bankrupted the government and led to Louis downfall. No mention is made of the influence of Franklin and Jefferson on the thinking of the independence-minded government assemblymen, and not one hint of Thomas Paine. They even failed to mention the fact he was imprisoned by the Robespierre-led radicals who highjacked the Revolution from the moderate Girondins Party.

The primary difference between our own revolution and the French is their distaste and denial of Christianity in general and the Catholic Church in particular. In that era, the Church was far more closely aligned with the monarchy, anointing rulers with the "divine right" to rule. While the American colonists were an ocean away from George III, and already populated with a variety of religious believers of all denominations and dogma, the French were starving a mere twelve miles from the opulence of Versailles. The Enlightenment philosophers echewed worship of any being higher than Man Himself and encouraged a government powered by pure Reason.

What resulted, of course, was man setting himself up as god. All public displays of the Church and Christianity were banned from public display, ripped down, broken apart, destroyed and disavowed. The eloquent leader of the Jacobins, Maximillien Robespierre (once he had disposed of his opponents and former allies during the Reign of Terror) managed to have the Cult of the Supreme Being declared the official religion, including a lavish Festival of the Supreme Being.

Six weeks later Robespierre and his cohorts, who had trumpeted the rule of Reason and of Man, and enforced it with secret police and informants, were overthrown by more conservative members of the Assembly. They followed Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, and all their other victims to the guillotine

The History Channel claims the French  Revolution was the turning point of history--the act that changed the world forever--apparently forgetting the American Revolution entirely. The French Revolution is portrayed as the epitome of the Enlightenment philosophy that would influence all revolutions to follow--from Russia to China. In short--it was the French, not the Americans, who brought the modern concept of a free republic to the world.

Sadly too many will accept this as truth when the exact opposite is the case. Brilliant men who rise to power with no fear of God's judgment--believing themselves to be gods themselves--will always fail. The tragedy is how many innocents across the world die before they are brought down.

Two hundred years after two bloody Revolutions we can stand back and see which was truly the turning point of history--the one fought by men who fashioned themselves gods or the one fought by men who feared God.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Thomas Paine-in-the-Ass


A few years ago, when I first began running through the fields of information and commentary on the Internet, I noticed a reoccurring theme: Thomas Paine had somehow become the patron saint of libertarians, moderates, and slightly-right-of-center blogs. Many posters even used his name as their nom de guerre . In fact, if you were (are?) ignorant of American history, you would get the impression Thomas Paine single-handedly instigated, fought, and won the Revolution, then moved on to write our Constitution and its attendant Bill of Rights.

Not quite.

Thomas Paine was a bit of a johnny-come-lately. In 1772 he was an excise officer (tax collector) in England--until he was fired for leading protests for higher salaries. Sometime in the next two years he met Benjamin Franklin and came to the conclusion life would probably be better on the other side of the pond.

Not until late 1774 did Paine arrive in America--with a letter of introduction from Franklin--and shortly thereafter became editor of the Pennsylvania Magazine . Understandably disgruntled with the English, he took up the American cause, publishing the famous pamphlet Common Sense  in 1776 and another series of pamphlets entitled The Crisis  over the next seven years. It's also been generally accepted that Thomas Jefferson was more of an editor of the Declaration of Independence, the bones of the document having been written by his close friend, Thomas Paine.

There is no denying Paine's brilliance with the written word, whether he wrote from idealistic zeal or from personal animosity toward Britain. And he did back up his words by enlisting to fight in the war. At some point he was appointed Secretary to the Committee for Foreign Affairs by the Continental Congress. It was then his sense of moral superiority and personal egotism began affecting events. He also became the prototype of the modern opposition liberals now residing in our own Congress.

Believing Silas Deane (one of our original secret agents, the man who personally brought the Marquis de Lafayette to the American side, and who held the contract to John Paul Jones' American privateer Bonhomme Richard ) was profiting from a private arms deal in France, Paine publicly denounced the affair. (Deane was exonerated in 1842.) Unfortunately his denunciation exposed America's secret negotiations with the French for help in the Revolution, a serious breach that could have affected the outcome of the war. Paine was immediately dismissed from his post.

Perhaps to make amends, he sent $500 to George Washington to help supply the war effort. While the hefty donation was undoubtedly welcome, subsequent events seem to indicate Thomas Paine's motives were now suspect and from then on he would be kept at arm's length.

Now here's where modern history becomes vague and fuzzy. While we have a detailed account of Pain's activities prior to this point, afterward most writings jump directly to "… after the War he retired to his farm in New Rochelle, NY, then went to England in 1787…" Ostensibly Paine went to England to seek financial aid to build an iron bridge over the Schuylkill River.

The Revolution ended in September of 1783. At some point in the ensuing years, Thomas Paine privately asked Washington for help in acquiring the job of Postmaster General of the new United States as compensation for his war work. It is said Washington considered recommending Paine for the position, then rejected his application. [NOTE: According to secondary sources, there is  a letter Washington wrote regarding the matter, however, it isn't cited in any on-line Thomas Paine biography I could easily find.]

Paine was furious and began to publicly denounce Washington. (It may be that many of the "facts" modern deconstructionists cite to discredit Washington were rumors created by a vindictive Thomas Paine.) However, to Paine's surprise, the attacks were not well received, hence the trip to England. There's also some evidence Paine was greatly displeased with Washington's openly Christian beliefs which led him to write The Age of Reason . While in England he wrote the Rights of Man , a reply to Edmund Burke's criticism of the French Revolution, and immediately found it necessary leave England for France.

In the French Revolution Thomas Paine saw the same goals as the American Revolution, with one major difference. The French Revolution would be based on human  reason and ideals, divorced from any "religious" interference. History shows us what resulted. Sadly, the French were no more appreciative of his efforts than they are of our modern assistance toward their country. Paine ended up in Luxembourg Prison, living in fear of execution, until American Ambassador James Monroe secured his release after the Reign of Terror ended.

In gratitude, Thomas Paine immediately released another diatribe against George Washington for failing to help him, attacking the President's reputation as a soldier as well as his administration's policies. This will sound a familiar note:

"The eventful crisis to which your double politics have conducted the affairs of your country, requires an investigation uncramped by ceremony. There was a time when the fame of America, moral and political, stood fair and high in the world. The lustre of her Revolution extended itself to every individual; and to be a citizen of America gave a title to respect in Europe. Neither meanness nor ingratitude had been mingled in the composition of her character.

Later in the same letter comes a very Kerryesque accusation.

"The part I acted in the American Revolution is well known; I shall not here repeat it. I know also that had it not been for the aid received from France, in men, money and ships, that your cold and unmilitary conduct (as I shall show in the course of this letter) would in all probability have lost America; at least she would not have been the independent nation she now is. You slept away your time in the field, till the finances of the country were completely exhausted, and you have but little share in the glory of the final event. It is time, Sir, to speak the undisguised language of historical truth.

"Elevated to the chair of the Presidency, you assumed the merit of everything to yourself, and the natural ingratitude of your constitution began to appear. […] As to what were your views, for, if you are not great enough to have ambition, you are little enough to have vanity, they cannot be directly inferred from expressions of your own; buy [but? ] the partisans of your politics have divulged the secret."

When his old friend Thomas Jefferson became president in 1801, Paine decided it was safe to return to the United States. President Jefferson planned to offer him free transport on a United States ship, celebrating him as a hero. But even after the passage of five years, the public had not forgotten Thomas Paine. The opposition to Jefferson's plan from all sides was so loud and furious, the President backed down. Paine returned in 1802 only to be thoroughly ignored. In 1809 he died and was buried on his farm in New Rochelle. Ten years later, a plan to return his bones to England for a memorial burial were abandoned when, after exhumation, the remains of Thomas Paine were lost.

An ignoble end for a brilliant yet ignominious man.

Word Play


Surfing around during the weeks and months after the election, I noticed disgruntled leftest had glommed on to a particular phrase, claiming it as their own. "A Proud Member of the Reality-Based Community" was popping up everywhere. At first I found it amusing, rather like all those TV docudramas "based on a true story" that have nothing to do with "reality." The only benefit of the phrase was to serve as a warning I was entering the red-light district of the blogosphere.

Then I read Slate's amusing article about the "Word of the Year" decision process by the Linguistic Society of America.

"During the afternoon voting, everyone agreed that Most Unnecessary had particularly good candidates. The suffix -based , as in faith-based  or reality-based , was widely disliked. "It's its own opposite," said Bill Kretzschmar, editor of the Linguistic Atlas of America . "If it's reality-based , it's not real."

Reality-based communities--living life in a Michael Moore documentary.

Found via Silflay Hraka.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Homespun Symposium


What, in your opinion, are the moral responsibilities of the individual citizen in the United States (or your own country) today and how do you believe people should act upon (or react to) those perceived responsibilities?

My question wasn't asked from a religious perspective since I believe certain moral obligations are ecumenical.

In my opinion there is a single moral imperitive, whatever your religious beliefs: educate yourself. Educate yourself, your children, grandchildren, parents, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, etc. etc. Without knowledge, or with an incomplete grasp of facts, you will be sucked into the whims and vanities of fashionable opinions, your emotions holding sway over your logic.

Education is a lifelong process, at times tedious and grueling and uncomfortable. And it means studying history. Not just recent history--those events that have occurred in your lifetime--but events that occurred in your great-great-great-grandparents lifetime as well.

A professor once told me the closer you come to the original events the better you will understand the actions and biases of those involved. Distance creates larger-than-life heroes and villains out of ordinary people. Understand I am not advocating deconstructing history. But without facts you will always be prey to the vagrancies of popular opinion and emotional rhetoric. One of my prized possessions is a 1912 encyclopedia, which is both amusing and enlightening.

I strongly recommend reading Allan Bloom's 1987 book The Closing of the American Mind . Twenty years ago he was already sounding the alarm of the impending firestorm we now live with daily.

"…the United States has one of the longest uninterrupted political traditions of any nation in the world. What is more, that tradition is unambiguous; its meaning is articulated in simple, rational speech that is immediately comprehensible and powerfully persuasive to all normal human beings. […] You had to be a crank or a buffoon…to get attention as a nonbeliever in the democracy.

[…]

"But the unity grandeur and attendant folklore of the founding heritage was attacked from so many directions in the last half-century that it gradually disappeared from daily life and from textbooks. It all began to seem like Washington and the cherry tree--not the sort of thing to teach children seriously."

Take the time--make the effort--turn off Desperate Housewives  or 24  and take intellectual, moral  responsibility for your future.

Citizen--educate thyself.

Sometimes You Do Live Long Enough…


…to see your claims validated.

My original extended profile description included the comment I am "Old enough to remember how Walter Cronkite lost us the Vietnam War…"

In early April of 2004 I wrote a post entitled "I Blame Walter Cronkite" in which I said:

"To this day I cannot understand Cronkite's strange flip-flop [over the Vietnam War]. At the time I got the distinct impression he was 1) impressed with his own importance as a veteran war correspondent and 2) deliberately attempting to influence the upcoming Presidential elections."

My friends grew tired of hearing my complaints and greeted every new rant with that polite-smile-glazed-eyes-where's-the-bar-I-need-a-drink-now  expression I imagine people get when listening to Michael Moore.

Unlike Michael Moore--I was right.

Today Howard Fineman writes:

"Still, the notion of a neutral, non-partisan mainstream press was, to me at least, worth holding onto. Now it's pretty much dead, at least as the public sees things. The seeds of its demise were sown with the best of intentions in the late 1960s, when the AMMP was founded in good measure (and ironically enough) by CBS. Old folks may remember the moment: Walter Cronkite stepped from behind the podium of presumed objectivity to become an outright foe of the war in Vietnam.  Later, he and CBS's star White House reporter, Dan Rather, went to painstaking lengths to make Watergate understandable to viewers, which helped seal Richard Nixon's fate as the first president to resign." [Emphasis mine.]

Took you long enough, Howard.

Merely another example of why you young whippersnappers should listen to your elders.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Homspun Symposium


Just wanted to say I'll get around to answering my own question shortly. After yet another day of dealing with lawyers, agencies, and semi-futile attempts at salvaging my financial life, I need to rest my brain.

Facing Dilemmas


UPDATE: Cap'n Arbyte has more on the TennCare situation and the consequences of allowing individuals unlimited medical entitlements.

When you encounter someone like the "Jane" profiled below, someone you know--through personal experience, actual evidence, and day-to-day observation--is cheating the system in massive ways, what do you do?

As adults we still live with the childhood fear of being called a "tattletale," especially since, in today's world, it's not the wrongdoers who are reviled, but the whistleblowers. They're bitter, mean, angry, small-minded, and only out for revenge. Whether or not they're accurate or truthful is rarely considered.

So what do  you do? Chuckle and nod, turning away with a wink and a grin at the fact they're "putting one over" on the government? Try to avoid the question, uncomfortable with your knowledge but even more uncomfortable with the thought of being a snitch--a rat--a squealer. Is it just too much trouble to get involved and you have your own life to live?

Do you not realize the government that person is "putting one over on" is you? The money they're using to live large is your tax dollars? The system they're milking is nearing bankruptcy?

Fortunately the government is beginning to wake up and exert some small effort to track disability frauds.

"A Government Accountability Office report published in September stated that SSA had detected $990 million in Disability Insurance overpayments in fiscal 2003, up from $772 million in 1999. This was just the total of overpayments that were discovered; the agency does not know the true total of improper payments. The largest individual overpayments exceeded $100,000.

"The prospect of having to repay such large amounts may deter beneficiaries from seeking employment. GAO found that about one third of Disability Insurance overpayments result from beneficiaries whose earnings exceeded the amount allowed.

"The Social Security Inspector General issued the results of an audit in July that assessed Disability Insurance beneficiaries' earnings reported to the agency by March 2002. The audit found that the agency had not assessed all of the earnings for 41 percent of 275 sample cases. Based on the sample, the audit estimated that 171,620 beneficiaries had been overpaid $3.15 billion because of work income."

What this program will not investigate is whether the person receiving SSI is capable of full-time employment. Typically new applicants are offered a huge range of benefits to encourage rehabilitation and retraining/reeducation. Some are supplied with free computers and training to begin the process. Injured persons who can no longer engage in the regular physical demands of their former job can--through additional education funded in part or in whole by the government--succeed in non-physical management positions and telecommuting jobs.

But like the old adage says, "You can lead a horse to water…" To the best of my knowledge--and investigation--there is no follow-up to verify the "disabled" party is making any attempt at rehab or reeducation.

And to unearth those who willfully deceive and steal from the SSI program, Social Security is almost totally dependent upon informants--and we already know how well that  type of program works.

Beyond taking money directly from your monthly paycheck (SSI is funded by tax dollars from the General Fund), people such as "Jane" are doing far more serious damage--they are bankrupting state and federal medical aid programs.

"[Democrat Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen] announced plans…to dissolve Tennessee's expanded Medicaid system and drop 430,000 poor and disabled people from the rolls of the health-care program that has been devouring a large chunk of the state budget."

"Poor and disabled people" like "Jane" who quickly learned that living on your tax dollars was easier than being a productive member of society.

"The TennCare concept was for the state to operate like an HMO, providing health insurance to those who needed it and paying the premiums for those who couldn't afford it. The idea was even sold as a cost savings because it would provide "managed care" (volume discounts, preventative care, etc.). TennCare opened enrollment to hundreds of thousands of people who did not qualify for Medicaid, even to some six-figure earners. Costs quickly exploded, and despite attempts to tighten eligibility rules the program still covers 1.3 million of the state's 5.8 million people."

So the next time you encounter your version of "Jane," think twice--or a half dozen times--before dismissing their behavior with a wink and a nod. Because of her, your grandparents, your parents, your children, and you will not be receiving any help when you really need it.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Addition of BlogClicker


There's a new blog exchange site out there and I decided to try it out. BlogClicker is much like Blog Explosion. It has possibilities, although the large banner that jumps from top to bottom on the page as you surf is a bit irritating. And for a minute or two I couldn't figure out how to click on the next blog--but that's probably just me being stupid.

More interesting reads, I hope--except for a certain Sir Peter Maxwell who will undoubtedly offend everyone , no matter where on the political spectrum they reside.

Found via Mad Tech

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Facing Issues


In my last post I mentioned I intended to "put a personal face" on certain issues. Since we have become a visual society--with an attention span reduced to sound bites--a picture is now worth considerably more than 1,000 words. 10,000 words are no longer adequate--unless a picture is attached. For instance, the "face" of MSM bias became Dan Rather. The "face" of Hollywood hatred became Michael Moore. The "face" of millionare arrogance became John Kerry.

ImageShack.us hostingTake a look at this picture. Take a moment to consider the woman--I'll call her "Jane" for now--and make some simple deductions about her. She seems to be a typical middle-aged woman--a few pounds heavier than necessary like so many of us beyond our 40's--obviously enjoying a vacation or family outing. Pleasant woman. Contented and living life fully. Could you imagine this person--this nice, grandmotherly-looking "Jane"--as a thief? Or a cheat? Of course not. But she is.

That picture was taken during one of the five vacations she took in one year. All paid for by the taxpayers. You see, "Jane" is considered 100% disabled by a back injury. A back injury so debilitating she cannot sit in an office. A back injury so serious she cannot attend classes for reeducation.

ImageShack.us hostingNow consider this photograph. Undoubtedly you're thinking what do these two picture have in common? In 1986  "Jane" ruptured a disc and had back surgery. Barely four months later, Joe Montana suffered the same injury throwing a pass and underwent back surgery. Two months later he was back on the field, going on to play football for another ten years and win two more Super Bowls.

Nearly 20 years later, "Jane" is still considered 100% disabled, collecting almost $1,000 per month of taxpayer money while her comfortably-off father sends her money to pay her bills.

Think about it. Study the face. The saga will contiue…

Monday, January 03, 2005

Returning


I will resume detailed blogging within the next few days. The past month was so full of trauma and personal disasters I didn't feel I should inflict my emotions on readers, particularly during a time designated as "happy" and "joyful." If you read the Biblical Book of Job, that pretty much sums up what's been happening in my life . Really.

Suffice it to say, I intend to keep going as long as I can. My goal for 2005 is to put a personal face on issues; to take them out of the abstract realm of things that affect "the other person." It may not be nice. Individual names may be named. Deal with it.