• There's a fine line between the American dream and the American nightmare.

    Don Henley

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I have some videos regarding the true nature of the income tax posted on YouTube and many of the unsolicited comments there would be amusing if they were not so disturbing with regard to ignorance of basic facts.  The problem with so many of our "friends" in the tax truth movement is that while they grasp the glimmer of a truth they rarely study the subject to the point of understanding.  And, they often, just like our esteemed politicians, cannot distinguish evidence from opinion.

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Pseudo Entertainers

It still holds true that man is most uniquely human when he turns obstacles into opportunities.

-- Eric Hoffer

Recently former judge Andrew Napolitano paid Jon Stewart on the Daily Show a visit to promote his book, It Is Dangerous to Be Right When the Government Is Wrong: The Case for Personal Freedom. Pseudo libertarian Napolitano and bona fide liberal Stewart immediately got into it. In an out of body moment, Napolitano started listing the natural rights that we all have and stated that we have the right to murder, which government then properly acts to restrict (even though he was using that to oddly make the point that government is an evil institution).

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Educating the Public

I am watching the remake of the series Cosmos. Carl Sagan, the host of the original series is a hard act to follow. He had the science down right but there was a real passion in his serach for not only facts but the truth and the process for getting there.  Neil deGrasse Tyson does a good job in the new series although he won't be imitated as effectively.  For a lot of believers it brings up a lot of disturbing and challenging issues, not the least of which is how to reconcile the interpretations of a book written by errant men with an observable universe created by an inerrant God. Many opt to accept interpretations that contradict the empirical evidence of God's handiwork. I think there is a name for that.

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Well Meaning But Flawed

Libertarianism: the radical idea that other people are not your property!

I was recently sent an email from a local businessman who railed against the anti-business mentality of the current Democratic administration. He described in some detail how Barack Obama doesn't have a clue as to how businesses create things including jobs. No argument there. He details the utter incompetence of agencies like the IRS, the gross misapplication of unemployment benefits and of course our favorite non-government, government agency, the U.S. Postal service (made private by Republican Richard Nixon of course). I'm sure he could have made a longer list but brevity is after all a virtue. He goes on to show how we spend more than we take in and how a private family doing the same thing would quickly go belly up. Again, he's just talking about what constitutes responsible behavior. He then concludes that the solution is to elect a select group of conservative tea party folks with business experience or at least business knowledge and who presumably, along with others of like mind, will put the country on the right track.

While well meaning, let me address each of these points in some detail.

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Why Charlie Rose is an embarrassment to CBS

Recently CBS 60 Minutes' Charlie Rose interviewed Bashir al-Assad. President of Syria. If you watch the replay of that interview on their web site, Assad responding to a question about support for ISIS by the Syrian people by saying, “They have lost. Except the very ideological people who have Wahhabi state of mind and ideology.” Rose (or the editor) then moves on to an unrelated question about civilian casualties without follow up to the ideology of Wahhabism.

My immediate reaction while watching this is that Rose has no clue what Wahhabism is all about. Later Asad (not Rose) brings up the Saudis and Wahhabism again. From later in the interview (full transcript here):

Charlie Rose: Can you talk about the parties involved? And characterize how you see them. Let me begin with Saudi Arabia.

President Assad: Saudi Arabia is--an (unintel) autocracy. Medieval system that's based on the Wahhabi dark ideology. Actually, say it's a marriage between the Wahhabi and the political system for 200 years now. That's how we look at it.

Charlie Rose: And what is their connection to ISIS?

President Assad: The same ideology. The same background.

Charlie Rose: So ISIS and Saudi Arabia are one and the same?

President Assad: The same ideology. Yes.

Charlie Rose: Same ideology.

President Assad: I don't-- it's Wahhabi ideology. They base the--their ideology is based on the books of the Wahhabi and Saudi Arabia.

Charlie Rose: So you believe that all Wahhabis have the same ideology as ISIS--

President Assad: Exactly. Definitely. And that's by ISIS, by al Qaeda, by al Nusra. It's not something we discover or we try to promote. It's very-- I mean their book-- they use the same books to indoctrinate the people. The Wahhabi books-

Charlie Rose: What about Turkey?

Rose quickly moves on to the next question on his list, Turkey, another US ally that is doing squat to interdict volunteers traveling through their country to join ISIS. He totally misses the key to most of the Sunni based terrorism in the middle east today of which ISIS is just one proponent, that is the Wahhbi ideology that the Saudi Arabian “Kingdom” actively promotes with its oil dollars throughout the region and inside Europe (e.g. Kosovo, Macedonia, etc). From PBS's Frontline website:

For more than two centuries, Wahhabism has been Saudi Arabia's dominant faith. It is an austere form of Islam that insists on a literal interpretation of the Koran. Strict Wahhabis believe that all those who don't practice their form of Islam are heathens and enemies. Critics say that Wahhabism's rigidity has led it to misinterpret and distort Islam, pointing to extremists such as Osama bin Laden and the Taliban. Wahhabism's explosive growth began in the 1970s when Saudi charities started funding Wahhabi schools (madrassas) and mosques from Islamabad to Culver City, California.

Does that sound like the kind of terrorism we've been dealing with for the past 15 years or so? You can read transcripts and other material here; the page is called Saudi Time Bomb. Time Bomb indeed. Perhaps someone could forward that link to Mr. Rose or the CBS staff so he can educate himself.

Had he understood the nature of Wahhabism and the threat it poses to the United States perhaps he and his liberal cohorts at CBS might be prepared to question more thoroughly why the United States is allied with it's most implacable enemy, Saudi Arabia. He might have explored this more thoroughly with Assad. But between his masters in Riyadh and Tel Aviv, there is little chance of these questions ever being asked by this group of journalists.

Unfortunately if Mr Rose is uneducated about Wahhabism, he is not alone. Journalists are much like public school teachers in their preparation. Journalists, especially those in TV, are trained to write or deliver good prose that most 8th graders can understand and deliver it in visually pleasing fashion. Understanding the content is not a high priority. Reading off of a teleprompter is a more valuable skill. Public school teachers labor under similar strictures. They are made to undergo all manner of “education training” but mastery of the subject they are teaching is low on their master's priorities. Coupled with working under vast bureaucratic managements, the end result is bored, turned off students. With a similar response by the viewing public to glitzy news programming with minimal substance, is it any wonder people are generally not well informed.

Stupid Public Servants!

Recently a friend observed that I seemed unusually pleased at the effects of some bad outcome in our political system. I simply responded that I very much enjoy seeing stupid people visited by the consequences of their actions. And by people, I mean most of the people in this country.

Case in point. Today I listened to a report about the bankruptcy in Detroit*. After years of screwing their tax payers and borrowing beyond their limits the crows are coming home to roost. On NPR's Here and Now, they interviewed a former police officer who is now retired. It seems this officer who only receives and early pension of 50K a year might find her pension in jeopardy since the city of Detroit cannot pay all of their bloated pension benefits. She is in a bad position, as her husband, also a former police officer who gets a slightly smaller pension. She complains that a potential reduction in her and her husband's pension will really hurt (two people living on slightly less than 100K in the Detroit suburbs must be tough these days).

One can only listen to this former “public servant” explain that their union negotiated this agreement fair and square and the city should stand behind their commitment. When asked how the city of Detroit should address their budgetary problems she had no response at all - none - nada. Obviously a real deep thinker just like the hapless citizens she routinely deprived of their rights when she actually worked for a living. She pointed out that she's not old enough to get social security so what is she to do? My first thought...go out and get a freaking job lady! And kick your husband in the butt to do the same like most of us have to do.

Honestly, I think we should cut the pensions of these public servants 100%. That will reduce the burden to the taxpayers who are subsidizing these lazy former police officers. Maybe when they know what real pain is, they will learn not to repeat the mistakes of the past and urge their unions not to gouge their employers who are the taxpayers not the city of Detroit.

* If you cannot find the story at the link search for “Detroit’s City Retirees Worry Pensions Won’t Be Paid” on July 19, 2013.