October 30, 2007

The Importance of Oil

The Protohuman himself, Craig Willms, has a very thoughtful piece at Static Noise about oil and the current global crisis. Mr. Willms argues that, yes indeedy, oil is the cornerstone of the world economy and that we should accept the necessity to safeguard it to keep things from spiraling out of control.  An excellent essay.

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Welfare Mentalities

This essay hits the nail on the head, although Mark Alexander appears to believe that Belarus (the old White Russia) has undergone a Ukrainian-style Orange Revolution.  It hasn`t, and the tyrannt Alexander Lukashenka is as bad as any of the old Soviet-era dictators. I cannot imagine how a Christian Choir got out, much less that there WAS a Christian choir permitted by the last Stalinists. Still, Mr. Alexander`s fundamental points are sound, and well worth a read:

By Mark Alexander
Liberty: Earned v. Inherited

A dollar earned and a dollar inherited, are both dollars, but generally speaking, a dollar earned has a very different value to its holder than a dollar inherited. This disparity in value correlates with the very different manner in which each dollar was obtained.

While some of us squander our money, most hard-working Americans appreciate the value of ever dollar they earn. And while some who inherit wealth also work hard, many such beneficiaries aren’t able to comprehend the value of a dollar earned (similar to those who are ``heirs`` to welfare programs). This lack of understanding results in a worldview I define as ``inheritance-welfare liberalism``.

The character of inheritance-welfare liberals those who were raised dependent on inheritance rather than self-reliance, and who inherited their wealth, their privilege and their office is all but indistinguishable from the character and values of those who depend on state welfare. The former group just has vastly more resources than the latter. Liberals are stellar examples of what V.I. Lenin called ``useful idiots``, Western Leftists who side with Socialists in economic, political and social debates.

The heritage and legacy of earned versus inherited liberty is remarkably similar to that of earned versus inherited wealth. Americans who have earned and supported liberty by way of their actions tend to be grateful for such liberty. But those who simply consume this inheritance cannot fully comprehend how to make, in the words of George Washington, ``wise and virtuous use of the blessings placed before them.``

On that note, allow me to relate an extraordinary encounter.

Earlier this month, I had the privilege of hearing the Belarus National Christian Choir. Our church has been planting evangelical churches and home-worship fellowships in Former Soviet Republics since the fall of the Iron Curtain.

Over the past decade, one of our church elders has led delegations on more than 60 ministry expeditions to FSRs, including Belarus, where they helped establish a Protestant Seminary and three large churches. Years ago, he befriended the director of the Belarus Choir, which is why our church was fortunate enough to enjoy a performance on their tour of the U.S.

This chorus of 30 sounded more like 100, their voices lifted up in praise. But I was not so much struck by the worship songs they sang in English, as by those they sang in Russian. These Belarusians, most of whom spent years under the tyrannical rule of the Soviet Union, are now singing Christian worship songs in their native tongue, without fear of being dragged off to the gulags.

After so much oppression, I can assure you that not one of these performers takes for granted a single second of the liberty they have earned.

I was deeply moved as I listened for the first time to Christian hymns being sung in Russian. And as I sat in the audience, I revisited the memory of an earlier encounter with Russians 20 years ago to the day of that concert.

In October 1987, I traveled in the Middle East for several weeks. In some of the countries, I met with U.S. embassy officials. On this particular excursion, I scheduled a stop in Moscow, capital of the land of the living dead, before returning to the U.S. As a private contractor, I was traveling on a work visa in some countries, but went to Moscow as a visitor.

Sidebar: I always detested flights on Aeroflot, the official Soviet State airline, not only because of significant safety issues evident to even the most novice aviator, but also because of more mundane health issues. Everyone in the USSR, it seemed, used tobacco, and Aeroflot’s enlightened central planners apparently awash with Stolichnaya, as were too many of their pilots divined that the smoking sections would not be segregated, fuselage front and back, but left and right. So, no matter where I sat, I was a virtual smoker for hours on end.

Speaking of smoking, I was on an Aeroflot flight to Uzbekistan a couple years earlier, and some of the natives were cooking in the aisle, using a makeshift tinfoil pan over an open flame true story, but I digress...

Upon arriving at Sheremetyevo Airport’s Terminal 1, I exited the ashtray and, much to my surprise, was greeted by two pallid, humorless gents and two equally humorless uniformed Militsiya regulars. I figured that they were not with the Chamber of Commerce welcoming committee. The suited fellows were representatives of the Soviet Committee for State Security, more commonly known as the Komitet Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti (KGB).

Apparently these fellows did not like my travel itinerary prior to arriving in the cold, wet, dingy-gray city of Moscow, even though I had yet to show my passport to anyone. They seized all of my credentials and belongings, and were kind enough to escort me to a ``guest house``, where I resided for three days whilst they determined what to do with me.

It was a bit disconcerting, having no diplomatic ``get out of jail free card``, and not being extended the courtesy of a call to our embassy in order to let some friendly soul know where I was. Heck, I didn’t even know where I was just north of Moscow somewhere. But I had a bed, table, light and a good supply of brown bread and green water. I was even given two hardboiled eggs on the third day of my visit, just before being returned to Sheremetyevo and put on a flight to Stuttgart.

No explanation, and none forthcoming.

Now, I share this recollection for this reason: Compared to the generations who suffered under totalitarian rule and are now free to sing Christian hymns in Russian, the three days I spent with my Soviet hosts were even less than a miniscule inconvenience. But for a moment, I lost my freedom without any assurance of gaining it back, and, consequently, acquired a firsthand peek into what the Soviet people, those who survived, endured for 73 years.

As a result, I gained a better appreciation for the unalienable Rights of Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness those endowed by our Creator, those brought forth by our Founders, those defended ever since by the blood of Patriots. I also gained a clearer perspective on just how ungrateful some Americans are for the freedoms they have inherited.

It is this same reverence for liberty that gave rise to The Patriot and the context which today motivates our entire team of editors, advisors and, we trust, our Patriot readers.

From the Federalist Patriot

***********************end article****************

People who know their musicals will remember the title of this post from Finian`s Rainbow.  I thought it fit with what Mark Alexander was saying in that idle part; welfare recipients and wealthy men are both unemployed, or underemployed, and often do not have a proper sense of the value of things monetary and material, but also often spiritual and  intellectual.  Life is centered in both cases around the provision of others, and the things cherished by those who have earned their own way are deemed of little value to the idle; they become engrossed in their own wishes, desires, and the narrow path of selfishness.  There is a kind of myopia that sets in when people are given instead of earn, a tendency to see the most mundane of personal issues as Cosmic while ignoring the important things in life.

A tenant in one of the apartment buildings the company I work for  manages has been living there (in a very desirable neighborhood, I might add) all of her life and does not work.  She is eternally unhappy, frequently enraged at small and petty issues, and not just a little unbalanced.  Some of her financing has dried up in recent years, and our company maintenance man (a very kind soul) gave her some cash to get by, but decided she should work for her daily bread, so paid her to do some cleaning for him.  The change was drastic; for a week or better her spirits lifted, and she thanked him for giving her life some purpose-at least momentarily.  See, she had never actually earned her way, and this knowledge of her lack of purpose in life has lead to anomie and despair.  Something as simple as cleaning an apartment dramatically improved her disposition, because she deserved what she was given (and she did a good job, too.) 

The idle poor and the idle rich both suffer from this purposelessness, this anomie which drives their spirits into lethargy and a sense of entitlement.  They cannot value liberty, or faith, or the importance of work because they come to expect things to be handed to them.  That is why Ted Kennedy (who knows full well that his work is busy-work to get him through the day) sounds just like Al Sharpton; they come from flip sides of the same environment.  Both demand that someone else pay their way.  Neither grasp the essence of America, the ability to rise as high as talent and drive will take you, the freedom to be who you wish to be, the rights to think and speak and worhship as your conscience dictates. 

This isn`t entirely limited to the inheritance class, either; those to whom success has come relatively easily fall into this trap.  Hollywood is full of left-wing actors and actresses who found success easy and know that they must ingratiate themselves to their patrons.  They are given their roles, and they are fully aware of that fact.  Hollywood is the ultimate welfare state, a place where those who eat do so by sucking up to their more successful friends.  The wheeling and dealing, the parties, the glitze and glimmer, see and be seen, is critical to success, and ultimately the glitterati know their lives are frivolous and purposeless. 

Many of the dotcommers, too, found success a bit too easy; write a computer program, sell it, and retire!  That explains why so many become good, loyal Democrats; they had no struggle to shape their character. 

Of course, the Markos Molitsas Zunigas and other ``activists`` of the world are classic examples of the welfare mentality; privileged children who remain in perpetual adolescence. Take Bill Ramsay here in St. Louis; for decades he has been a ``peace activist`` living first off his parent`s money and now off his wife.  It is doubtful that the guy has ever held a meaningful job, and he has managed to sucker people into financing his permanent socialist revolution.  The same holds true for a great many on the Left; rich kids who find somebody else to finance their children`s game of ``save the world`` and rebellion.  They, too, are welfare queens.

A person who has never had to struggle, never had to earn what they have, is like a rubber mask without a face behind it; it may look like something of substance but is empty.  Human beings do not come into this world fully formed, and the Biblical punishment of Adam that ``by the sweat of his brow he would earn his daily bread`` means that our character, or values, our sense of purpose and worth must be developed by this unpleasant but necessary process.  Those who manage to avoid the process, or shortchange it, never know the true meaning of being human and so sink into their own mental puss.  Theirs is an abyss of wants and desires unfulfilled and unfulfillable, a drowning pool they cannot escape.  This is true if one skips any unpleasant part of life; who hasn`t had a broken heart?  I would not want to have failed to have one, as I appreciate the more what I have.  The same holds true here.

I fear that America has been too long absent from life`s struggle, and too many spoiled brats have managed to grow physically but never faced the challenges which makes us men and women of character.  We value our freedom too lightly, and a thing too lightly valued is usually discarded.  Consider the many ways we ignore what our forefathers would have jealousy guarded, one can make a solid case that the welfare mentality has become mainstream.  How long can we keep a precious thing that we do not value?

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October 29, 2007

Deglaciation and Sequestered Carbon Dioxide

Atmospheric CO2 levels tend to be lower during cold eras and higher during warmer periods, leading Al Gore and others to conclude that CO2 is driving the warming.  This is a nice, simple theory at odds with reality; the rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide lags behind warmer temperatures, often by 800 years or more. 

Here is a paper that analyzes the sequestration of carbon in the north Pacific during the last ice age and subsequent deglaciation.  Notice that there was no immediate major rise in CO2 levels, and the authors offer an explanation of deep water ventilation followed by a rise in nutritive material in the ocean, resequestering the CO2 in biological growth. 

Since Carbon Dioxide levels follow a warming period, and we have been in a warming period since the end of the Maunder (solar) Minimum and the Little Ice Age, what does that suggest?  We hadn`t actually gone into an ice age, so the effects would logically not take as long to manifest; atmospheric CO2 should rise as the Earth warms. 


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Hayward and the Upper Class Twit of the Year

Steven Hayward has some thoughts on the ``upper class twit of the year`` award which Front Page Mag has given Al Gore.

Here are a few snippets:

FP: It is obvious there is a political agenda here. What is it? To crystallize the issue, for instance: how come taking a contrarian position on climate change wouldn’t lead one to getting a peace prize?

Hayward: Gore exemplifies the urge most environmentalists have to exert ever greater political control over resources. Some environmentalists want to do this because they believe we use "too many" natural resources and want to be in charge of rationing them; others believe the rationalist fallacy that government can direct better use of resources than private individuals and the marketplace. To be sure, resource scarcity can be a source of conflict and war, but democracies and nations with market economies seldom have to go to war to resolve such conflicts. The prize ought to go to the multinational forces in Iraq trying to help forge a stable, decent, post-totalitarian nation there.

FP: Why do you think the Nobel Committee is so politicized? Wangari Maathai, Shirin Ebadi, Jimmy Carter, Kofi Annan, Yasser Arafat, Mikhail Gorbachev etc. I mean come on. How come George W. Bush didn’t get one for liberating 50 million Muslims from two fascist dictatorships?

Hayward: All you need to do to answer this is remember John O'Sullivan's First Law (O'Sullivan was the editor of National Review for several years in the 1990s), which goes as follows: Any organization or institution that is not explicitly conservative shall become left-wing over time. The Nobel Committee has followed the same line of conventional consensus that has undone the League of Women Voters, the American Association of University Professors, the Ford Foundation, etc.

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A Movie Hollywood Wouldn`t Make

This from Jack Kemp:

A new movie Hollywood wouldn't make
You wouldn't see George Clooney taking this role - or Oliver Stone directing it. Its' hero is a Vietnam Vet.
This Friday, an independent motion picture was released nationally in a limited run, featuring as its' true life hero/protagonist a Vietnam vet, Michael Pimentel, who lost his hearing in that war. The reason he joined the Army was that this poor high school debate champion had no money or scholarship for college and wanted to draw the benefits of the GI Bill. I guess that would make him fit the myopic "liberal" definition of Senator Kerry as being on of "life's losers." During his life, he later goes to Oregon State University, becames a major advocate for helping troubled veterans and disabled people get jobs in his native Oregon, then became the Oregon state government director of those programs, then the federal director. He advocated 20 years for the Americans with Disabilities Act - and the movie shows Pres. Bush Senior (41st president) in a good light for taking up that cause.
The movie, called "Music Within," http://www.musicwithinmovie.com/ amazingly, got a good review in the New York Times, according to a fellow theatergoer I met yesterday at a New York multiplex. I guess we should be grateful that Frank Rich left the theatrical review department and lost some influence over The Time's reviews of the arts.
You can only now see it in the Midwest in Chicago or the Twin Cities. In time, it should hopefully be seen all over the US.
I learned about this film because of its' connection with Starkey Hearing aids. My late dad and I traveling to Starkey Hearing Aid headquarters in the Twin Cities to get his hearing aids repaired, thus getting us placed on their mailing list. The president of Starkey, Mr. William Austin, appears in a cameo in the movie as himself, helping  Michael Pimentel by fitting him with superior hearing aids that solve his tinnitus-related hearing problem. Mr. Austin's son, Greg, personally fitted my dad for new Starkey hearing aids.
The language in the film, especially between the lead character and his friend with cerebral palsy (a great acting portrayal by Welsh actor Michael Sheen) is a bit rough and gives the story a more male edge than the typical movie story about helping others. The main character gets and loses "the girl" because of his passionate dedication to his work.  But it all works out.  This is a fine movie, the type Hollywood just doesn't make anymore. I highly recommend it.
Jack Kemp
(not the politician)

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Return from Big Springs

Once again, we have made a successful trip to Big Springs (our third annual) and my wife has survived yet another ``camping`` ordeal. It was a fine time, if a bit cool.

Big Springs is only 15 minutes from the Ozark Hilton, but that accomodation is a bit upscale for my in-laws (and a bit too small for 7 people), so we choose to rent the largest cabin at Big Springs, which is a federal park.  The cabin is built of native stone with very high ceilings, poorly fitting plank doors, and heated solely by two fireplaces.  A cement slab foundation covered by linoleum serves as the floor, and there are drafty windows throughout.  The place is perfect for summer, where the high thermal mass and cathedral ceilings guarantee that it be cool, and the fireplaces do not slope so the heat all goes straight up the chimneys. 

This cabin has two rooms, and the bedroom has two queen sized beds. Built by the WPA in the `30`s, these are delightful structures built into the side of a hill with retaining walls giving a level parking and picnicing space. My wife and I slept in the bedroom in one of the beds and her nieces slept in the other, next to the fireplace.  I get little sleep on these trips; I am official fire tender, getting up every hour or so to refuel the heat source.  Actually, the stones of the fireplace had heated up by the time we left, and the room was starting to feel almost warm.  We supplemented the fire with a couple of electric space heaters (one for the bedroom, one for the living area where the girls parents slept in a chilly peace) which kept blowing the circuit breakers, but warmed the rooms a degree or two.

This year was special (and a bit disappointing to us) in that they held a wedding at the spring, and the reception in the dining lodge which was directly downhill from our cabin.  The guests then stayed in every available cabin, and so the park was packed with revelers.  Some of those cabins do not have fireplaces, and an elderly couple told me they nearly froze that night.  It was a romantic idea; the couple took their vows with the roaring spring as their backdrop, a well of life flowing into the future. The lodge was decorated beautifully, and the party got a bit raucous as the guests felt free to imbibe as much as they wished since they had only to hike to their quarters.  Of course, we weren`t exactly thrilled; we generally have the entire park to ourselves at this time of year. 

Saturday we hiked a very tough trail, a four miler straight up the side of a mountain and back down to the spring. My wife insisted on going despite her knee problems, and we mounted a bitter campaign to attain the summit, moving at jogging pace for a snail.  The trail was beautiful with sheer cliffs giving a spectacular overview of the park, and the summit was covered with pines.  I wouldn`t want to be there during an electrical storm; everywhere were downed trees, killed by lightening strikes.  Given the ever-slowing pace of my wife (who actually walks for exercise back home on city streets but can`t do hills) I feared we would be spending the night, and those burned trees made me worried about such a prospect!  The downhill was worse; her knees kept giving on her, and I had to catch her as she fell down the hill. I was never happier than when we came to the bamboo thickets in the bottoms. Of course, we had to hike back up the hill to our cabin...

Except for a continuous rain on friday, we had absolutely glorious weather.  The rain forced us to leave my truck at home, and we had to take my wife`s car, which we packed with hundreds of pounds of supplies.  One of her tires was a little low, and I filled it at a gas station in town before we left.  Saturday morning is was completely flat, but I had brought a tiny compressor (always be prepared was the boyscout motto) which runs off the car`s cigarette lighter.  Unfortunately, her cigarette lighter had stopped working (it used to) and so we had to pull another car around to pump it up (it takes about an hour with this little thing I got for five bucks from the bank).  Since we only had a donut for a spare, and the trip was about 160 miles-three times the recommended driving distance on those worthless things-I drove into town in search of a repair station.  Fat chance; Van Buren had only one station, and it was closed.  I drove to a couple of other towns but no luck, so I went back to the cabin.  Sunday morning saw another flat tire, and we pumped it up again.  I drove all the way home on it, and as of this morning it is still holding air!  I think the car hated going on the trip as much as my wife, and that the flat tire was its way of protesting!

The cats were very happy to see us, and we were happy to see them.  One of them had vomited on the bedroom carpet, and it had dried, making it impossible to get up.  I did the best I could, but I still have dried cat vomit stuck on the floor, and I`m pondering what to use to get it up; any suggestions would be helpful.

Oh, Big Springs IS the largest spring in the United States, according to their plaque.  It really is a grand sight; rushing whitewater, then the prettiest blue (from the carbonates) and an entire river running off the spring with the clearest water you will ever see and trout within arms reach of the banks.  The spring river merges with the Current just a short distance away, and the whole park owes it`s existence to this fact; the Current changed it`s channel, and was going to drown the spring, so the WPA came in and built retaining levees to rechannel the Current. The cabins were built to house the workmen, and the Federal government summarily took possession of the surrounding land.  There is a boat take-out on the Current, too, and we always hear jet boats on the river.  (Those guys are crazy; we`ll hear them docking well into the night.  The Current isn`t a lazy river, by any stretch, and at best these guys probably hit a lot of things.) 

At any rate, we had a good time-even my wife, who had a better time returning home but who still enjoyed our stay.  I took some vacation time from work, and will be going to the Ozark Hilton this week as well as visiting my grandmother, who is in a nursing home in the little town of Warrenton.  Blogging may be a bit spotty, but I will do my best.


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October 26, 2007

A Short Respite

I will be taking a brief hiatus from blogging; I am going to to stay in a cabin on the Current River for the weekend, and will be back on Sunday afternoon.

I`ll be going to the Ozark Hilton (which is close to the Springs) during the week, so blogging may be a bit spotty. A thousand pardons!

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The Racist Tyranny of Liberalism

Missouri is a state full of racists.

No, it`s not what you think; I`m not referring to green-toothed (singular, that is) hillbillies with bib overalls, pickup trucks with gunracks and Confederate Battle Flags (actually, there are plenty of those-but they aren`t especially racist and they aren`t to whom I am referring.)  I`m not talking white-sheeted cross burners.  I`m not even talking about middle to upper class ``white flight`` Yuppies.  No, I`m talking about those who believe that blacks cannot make it without their help, without the force of law propelling them forward whether they have the ability to succeed in the position they are non-meritoriously given or not. I am speaking of those paternalistic whites (and blacks) who assume in their pinched little hearts that minorities are incapable of accomplishing things on their own, cannot succeed because somehow our ``racist society`` has stacked the deck against their achievement and so they must be babied, given that which they have not earned in some ethereal vision of ultimate fairness. 

It is true that social circumstances make it harder for minorities-especially poor blacks and latinos-to make their way out of a lower station.  That has always been true of the poor, who are disadvantaged in terms of education and the material ability to obtain it. It also stems from disadvantage in terms of their social models; a girl born into poverty to an unwed mother has an uphill battle to succeed in the mainstream, and many such young people give up at an early age due to discouragement, or make the same mistake that their mothers made.  Poor minorities have an extra burden, since they themselves see racial prejudice against them-even if no such prejudice exists (and I`m not denying that it still does, although I think there is plenty of effort made to counteract that by advocating for and encouraging minority success-just look at the aggressive efforts in academia!) The perception of prejudice (be it there or not) remains with the minority, acting to restrain effort (why bother?) and excuse failure (it`s not your fault!) and thus provides a wearying obstacle to advancement which must be overcome. 

Ah, there`s the rub!  This is a psychological burden, self-imposed to a large degree.  Why do immigrants-including black and latino-surpass the native-born minorities so quickly on the economic and social scale?  Because they are not burdened with this legacy of racism and discrimination, don`t carry this psychological baggage from a past era into their lives.  The same barriers apply to both (in fact, the immigrant usually has a language and cultural barrier to overcome), yet the native born is left in the dust because of the fears and assumptions he carries with him. 

Bill Cosby has, of course, been all over this in recent years, and Dr. Cosby is absolutely correct in calling for a bootstrap effort on the part of African-Americans.  His call echoes the earlier efforts by Booker T. Washington, who asked of his fellows toil, sweat, suffering, and labor.  Washington believed that the key to black success was to shame white America, to be more dilligent, more thrifty, better people in general.  This required a considerable effort, the promise not for his generation but for those to come.  The founding of the NAACP was a disaster for Washington`s vision, as they promised advancement through political means.  People being what they are, why would the African-American community have chosen Washington`s way of laborious toil and tears? The broad and easy path was offered, and it was taken. Instead of internal reform, the black community chose to demand reform from the majority.

And they got it to a large degree, yet the problems for the poorer blacks has, if anything, intensified.  Why?  Because the problem was not solely in the stars, but in ourselves.  The problem was, and remains, both a black and a white issue, but the terms have changed. Instead of institutional barriers to advancement for the minority communities we now have the barriers of self-doubt, paternalistic do-goodism, and huge amounts of money from Uncle Sam. 

See, the African-American community did not reap what they themselves had sewn.  Rather, the success of any black could always be attributed (rightly or wrongly) to the programs and policies of the majority, of government money, affirmative action, anti-discrimination laws.  The State forced the changes, changes which would have come had African Americans followed Booker T. Washington`s vision anyway.  The pride of success, the overcoming of bad circumstances through their own efforts was missing.  Instead, successful blacks are often stigmatized as products of affirmative action, and there is always the suspicion that they are where they are because of quotas.  They have been robbed of their self-esteem by the ham-handed force of Federal power.  Whites view minority success with suspicion, and blacks view their own success with doubt and misgiving.  The path to equality has lead to a state of inequality, and it is going to be very difficult to change horses midstream.

This isn`t restricted to upwardly mobile minorites, either; the belief among liberals was that social conditions were detrimental to the prospects of the poor, and they set about replacing under-performing fathers with a social safety net.  Well, when you give people something for nothing, you shouldn`t be surprised that they will stop providing that for themselves.  They fully replaced the underperforming fathers, and now there are few fathers around at all!  The more children an unwed mother had, the more money she got from the government, so instead of a poor father and family of 4 you now have no father and a family of 8.  Education, being free, became worth exactly what the poor paid for it.  Liberals removed all incentives to live and succeed, and it became obvious that the path to the greatest success they would have was in gaming the rotten ediface built by White Liberals, or in engaging in crime.  Since punishment and societal disapproval for crimes and bad behavior in general was deemed damaging to the self-esteem of minorities, it was largely removed from schools and from all social policy.  Crime metastasized, the schools collapsed, and the very things needed to get the poor out of poverty disappeared with the embracing tentacles of the welfare-state leviathan.

The real racists are those who, through condescending bonhomme, keep minorities trapped in this cycle of failure and despair.  Their ``save the world`` mentality benefits their own self-esteem while destroying the feelings of value and worth on the part of those whom they claim to champion. The Klansman and neo-Nazi are small potatoes next to these vainglorious, self-satisfied liberals.

So, what does this have to do with Missouri? Regular Birdblog readers remember my writings on the plight of the St. Louis Fire Department; required promotional testing did not produce enough qualified black candidates for promotion, and Fire Chief Sherman George refused to promote qualified whites, claiming the tests were racist.

Since my post at the American Thinker, there have been some developments: a court reviewed the tests and declared them unbiased, and Mayor Francis Slay (who was bending over backwards to avoid offending his black constituents) said the City would abide by the court ruling.  Chief George (who is black) refused to promote the white candidates anyway (despite the dangers posed to city residents due to a dearth of leadership in the SLFP). The Mayor and City Council ordered him to make the promotions, and he refused, so was demoted to an assistant Fire Chief.  He has since sued the City for racial discrimination, and has organized a recall petition against Mayor Slay (who I have been quite critical of in the past).  Some national figures have shown interest, and we may yet see a Jesse Jackson/Al Sharpton campaign over the ``wrongful dismissal`` of the racist Chief George.

What`s the point?  This situation would never have occured had it not been for the benevalent arrogance of affirmative action, and what has been vested in that corrupt and destructive policy. Slay could have ended this long ago, but feared the Civil Rights community of racial hucksters.  Chief George, a career firefighter, should have understood that race matters not when men go into burning buildings, but he chose to make a fight out of it in the interest of promoting ``men of color`` who had not measured up-and whom the firefighters would follow with trepidation, as their very lives would depend on the cool judgement and decisions of that underqualified leader. The whole Affrimative Action outlook has destroyed the cohesion of a unit which desperately requires confidence in one`s fellow. Both blacks and whites will die because of this, yet it has become more important to advance a cause than to save a life.

It isn`t limited to the City of St. Louis, either; Ward Connerly, the black activist for a color-blind society, has promoted an initiative here to end race-based favoritism.  Robyn Carnahan, liberal Democrat daughter of the late Mel Carnahan and Secretary of State here in Missouri, has rewritten Mr. Connerly`s initiative in the most prejudiced of terms. The Democratic (sic) Party in Missouri has wedded themselves to this flipped-over racism, and will not allow someone to close the political plantation; as long as they can bait the race trap for the African-American community they can continue to get the votes.  The suffering of the poor matters not a wit when it comes to political fodder, and our friendly Democratic Party will not shrink at lies and misrepresentation of what Mr. Connerly is doing to keep their power.

The problem of race in this country is a difficult one, and it cannot be solved by political efforts-especially not by white political efforts.  Black Americans must see the disasterous consequences of the path they have taken and take steps on their own.  They have, of course, every right to demand justice where it is due, but they have to stop looking for the klansman behind every tree.  (Jena is an example of that.) True success comes from one`s own efforts, and pride stems from the satisfaction of a job well done.  Respect is not everyone`s due, but has to be earned, and respect for onesself is the key to respect from others.  These things cannot be forced or coerced.  LIberals rob minorities of these things with their siren-song temptations and their destructive gifts.  It`s time to Just Say No to the addiction of White racist liberal policies. It`s time to take charge of your own destiny.

Together let`s put an end to the racist tyranny of liberalism!




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A Report from the Editor of the Jena Times

More on the Jena affair, courtesy of Wil Wirtanen and the Christian Science Moniter:

Media myths about the Jena 6

A local journalist tells the story you haven't heard.

By Craig Franklin

 Jena, La.

By now, almost everyone in America has heard of Jena, La., because they've all heard the story of the "Jena 6." White students hanging nooses barely punished, a schoolyard fight, excessive punishment for the six black attackers, racist local officials, public outrage and protests  the outside media made sure everyone knew the basics.

There's just one problem: The media got most of the basics wrong. In fact, I have never before witnessed such a disgrace in professional journalism. Myths replaced facts, and journalists abdicated their solemn duty to investigate every claim because they were seduced by a powerfully appealing but false narrative of racial injustice.

I should know. I live in Jena. My wife has taught at Jena High School for many years. And most important, I am probably the only reporter who has covered these events from the very beginning.

The reason the Jena cases have been propelled into the world spotlight is two-fold: First, because local officials did not speak publicly early on about the true events of the past year, the media simply formed their stories based on one-side's statements – the Jena 6. Second, the media were downright lazy in their efforts to find the truth. Often, they simply reported what they'd read on blogs, which expressed only one side of the issue.

The real story of Jena and the Jena 6 is quite different from what the national media presented. It's time to set the record straight.

Myth 1: The Whites-Only Tree. There has never been a "whites-only" tree at Jena High School. Students of all races sat underneath this tree. When a student asked during an assembly at the start of school last year if anyone could sit under the tree, it evoked laughter from everyone present  blacks and whites. As reported by students in the assembly, the question was asked to make a joke and to drag out the assembly and avoid class.

Myth 2: Nooses a Signal to Black Students. An investigation by school officials, police, and an FBI agent revealed the true motivation behind the placing of two nooses in the tree the day after the assembly. According to the expulsion committee, the crudely constructed nooses were not aimed at black students. Instead, they were understood to be a prank by three white students aimed at their fellow white friends, members of the school rodeo team. (The students apparently got the idea from watching episodes of "Lonesome Dove.") The committee further concluded that the three young teens had no knowledge that nooses symbolize the terrible legacy of the lynchings of countless blacks in American history. When informed of this history by school officials, they became visibly remorseful because they had many black friends. Another myth concerns their punishment, which was not a three-day suspension, but rather nine days at an alternative facility followed by two weeks of in-school suspension, Saturday detentions, attendance at Discipline Court, and evaluation by licensed mental-health professionals. The students who hung the nooses have not publicly come forward to give their version of events.

Myth 3: Nooses Were a Hate Crime. Although many believe the three white students should have been prosecuted for a hate crime for hanging the nooses, the incident did not meet the legal criteria for a federal hate crime. It also did not meet the standard for Louisiana's hate-crime statute, and though widely condemned by all officials, there was no crime to charge the youths with.

Myth 4: DA's Threat to Black Students. When District Attorney Reed Walters spoke to Jena High students at an assembly in September, he did not tell black students that he could make their life miserable with "the stroke of a pen." Instead, according to Walters, "two or three girls, white girls, were chit-chatting on their cellphones or playing with their cellphones right in the middle of my dissertation. I got a little irritated at them and said, 'Pay attention to me. I am right now having to deal with an aggravated rape case where I've got to decide whether the death penalty applies or not.' I said, 'Look, I can be your best friend or your worst enemy. With the stroke of a pen I can make your life miserable so I want you to call me before you do something stupid.'"

Mr. Walters had been called to the assembly by police, who had been at the school earlier that day dealing with some students who were causing disturbances. Teachers and students have confirmed Walters's version of events.

Myth 5: The Fair Barn Party Incident. On Dec. 1, 2006, a private party – not an all-white party as reported – was held at the local community center called the Fair Barn. Robert Bailey Jr., soon to be one of the Jena 6, came to the party with others seeking admittance.

When they were denied entrance by the renter of the facility, a white male named Justin Sloan (not a Jena High student) at the party attacked Bailey and hit him in the face with his fist. This is reported in witness statements to police, including the victim, Robert Bailey, Jr.

Months later, Bailey contended he was hit in the head with a beer bottle and required stitches. No medical records show this ever occurred. Mr. Sloan was prosecuted for simple battery, which according to Louisiana law, is the proper charge for hitting someone with a fist.

Myth 6: The "Gotta-Go" Grocery Incident. On Dec. 2, 2006, Bailey and two other black Jena High students were involved in an altercation at this local convenience store, stemming from the incident that occurred the night before. The three were accused by police of jumping a white man as he entered the store and stealing a shotgun from him. The two parties gave conflicting statements to police. However, two unrelated eye witnesses of the event gave statements that corresponded with that of the white male.

Myth 7: The Schoolyard Fight. The event on Dec. 4, 2006 was consistently labeled a "schoolyard fight." But witnesses described something much more horrific. Several black students, including those now known as the Jena 6, barricaded an exit to the school's gym as they lay in wait for Justin Barker to exit. (It remains unclear why Mr. Barker was specifically targeted.)

When Barker tried to leave through another exit, court testimony indicates, he was hit from behind by Mychal Bell. Multiple witnesses confirmed that Barker was immediately knocked unconscious and lay on the floor defenseless as several other black students joined together to kick and stomp him, with most of the blows striking his head. Police speculate that the motivation for the attack was related to the racially charged fights that had occurred during the previous weekend.

Myth 8: The Attack Is Linked to the Nooses. Nowhere in any of the evidence, including statements by witnesses and defendants, is there any reference to the noose incident that occurred three months prior. This was confirmed by the United States attorney for the Western District of Louisiana, Donald Washington, on numerous occasions.

Myth 9: Mychal Bell's All-White Jury. While it is true that Mychal Bell was convicted as an adult by an all-white jury in June (a conviction that was later overturned with his case sent to juvenile court), the jury selection process was completely legal and withstood an investigation by the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division. Court officials insist that several black residents were summoned for jury duty, but did not appear.

Myth 10: Jena 6 as Model Youth. While some members were simply caught up in the moment, others had criminal records. Bell had at least four prior violent-crime arrests before the December attack, and was on probation during most of this year.

Myth 11: Jena Is One of the Most Racist Towns in America. Actually, Jena is a wonderful place to live for both whites and blacks. The media's distortion and outright lies concerning the case have given this rural Louisiana town a label it doesn't deserve.

Myth 12: Two Levels of Justice. Outside protesters were convinced that the prosecution of the Jena 6 was proof of a racially biased system of justice. But the US Justice Department's investigation found no evidence to support such a claim. In fact, the percentage of blacks and whites prosecuted matches the parish's population statistics.

These are just 12 of many myths that are portrayed as fact in the media concerning the Jena cases. (A more thorough review of all events can be found at www.thejenatimes.net  click on Chronological Order of Events.)

As with the Duke Lacrosse case, the truth about Jena will eventually be known. But the town of Jena isn't expecting any apologies from the media. They will probably never admit their error and have already moved on to the next "big" story. Meanwhile in Jena, residents are getting back to their regular routines, where friends are friends regardless of race. Just as it has been all along.

Craig Franklin is assistant editor of The Jena Times.


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Goebble-esque Media Coverage and Big Abortion`s War on the Unborn

We are all fully aware of bias in the mainstream media; of that there is little dispute (liberals, of course, taking a page from the Nazis and the Big Lie, try to claim a CONSERVATIVE bias, but that`s another story!)  Here is another small example, this time a pro-Planned Parenthood bias outlined by Brent Bozell at Lifenews.

Here is a sample:

As much as liberals decry major corporations that act as if they're above the law, there's always quiet when the subject is Planned Parenthood, America's number one corporate provider of abortions. During its 2005-2006 fiscal year, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America performed a record 264,943 abortions, reported a tidy profit of $55.8 million  and received a record high in taxpayer funding of $305.3 million.

This is one corporation the media hold in the highest regard. They're not ``merchants of death.`` That would be the tobacco companies, or gun manufacturers, or hamburger joints. These are the heroic ``providers`` of ``a woman’s right to choose.``

They're also sleazy in their business practices. In Aurora, Illinois, Planned Parenthood planned to build the biggest abortion clinic in the country, but they lied by omission to the city. Throughout the construction process, the McDonald’s of the abortion industry applied for permits by listing the owner as ``Gemini Office Development,`` not as Planned Parenthood.

ABC News to the rescue! Barbara Pinto filed a report on the September 19 World News, suggesting black was white. ``Planned Parenthood denies they've deceived anyone,`` she stated, adding that their spokesman in Chicago said they were ``entirely truthful.`` Pinto proceeded to blame Aurora’s officials for being dimwitted: ``None of the city officials or elected officials were aware that Planned Parenthood would be the tenant in this building. That, despite the fact plans they approved included a surgical center, bulletproof glass and numerous security cameras.`` ABC ended by quoting the clinic’s neighbors wishing the pro-lifers would stop protesting: ``I just wish that they'd go home. I'm tired of seeing their signs.``

Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry have been reaping huge profits yearly, yet Exxon-Mobile, Phillip Morris, Microsoft, etc. are excoriated for making money legally and honestly.  Consider the war against tobacco; the principle claim against the tobacco industry is that the product is addictive, physically destructive, and that those who choose to use it are not fully aware of the danger.  The primary argument is that smokers start using it in their teens (despite the illegality) when they are not fully capable of given a mature consent. Yet the abortion industry is far worse, since abortion is 100% deadly to the unborn child, is psychologically destructive to the aborting mother causing the psychological ``post abortion syndrome`` in which guilt eats away at the poor girl who has ripped the blessing God has given her from her womb and thrown it in the trash, is physically damaging even when done properly, often leading to reduced fertility when a child is wanted, and is quite often done (with the full consent of the law) to teenagers who are not fully capable of giving a mature consent. Does anyone really believe the psychological pressures to smoke are greater than the psychological pressures to ``get rid of`` an unwanted pregnancy?  Yet we are told ad nauseum that ``big tobacco`` is evil because of teen smoking while teen womb ripping is hunky dorey! Just a ``proceedure``, and you can get on with your life! No big deal, that you will burn your unborn baby with salt, or cut the poor baby`s head off. 

Smoking is not guaranteed to be fatal, abortion is.

Of course, the media is on even shakier ground with ``big oil``, or ``big computing`` or ``big fast food``; none of these things can be shown to be especially dangerous-and none of them can be shown to be immediately deadly.  Yet we are made to believe that these are the great evils of our time, while tearing a child out of her mother and tossing her into the trash to die isn`t?

So why aren`t we seeing expose`s in the mainstream media about ``big abortion``?  They make huge amounts of money while suckling at the taxpayer`s teat-quite against the will of this particular taxpayer-and yet we hear little.  Why is the public subsidizing something so anti-American, so against the standards of decency?  Why hasn`t this funding been brought up for a vote?  Code Pink, ANSWER, Moron.Ogr and the other anti-war people believe that their moral objections to war should excuse them for paying for our mutual defense; I wonder if they would be willing to excuse those of us who oppose abortion from paying for the slaughter of the innocents?  I suspect they would have a very different opinion.  We were in a state of war with Al Qaeda and with Saddam Hussein-they both attacked Americans and our allies-what have the unborn done to deserve a leftist war against them?  If killing is wrong in war, isn`t it wrong in this particular instance?

Yet Planned Parenthood continues the Surge against the unborn!

The anti-war crowd bemoans our ``torture`` of enemy combatants, those who are caught in active attempts to kill or kidnap Americans.  Such ``torture`` consisting of putting prisoners (who are in hot, humid Cuba of all places) into an air-conditioned room, or of pouring a cup of water on their heads, or of making them eat gourmet food and have regular calls to prayer. Suppose we were to dismember prisoners piecemeal while still alive?  Suppose we would scorch their bodies with acidic chemicals until they died?  Suppose we would place them in a trash bag while still alive, waiting for them to suffocate?  That most certainly IS torture, yet we hear nary a peep out of our brave leftists when it comes to these routine ``proceedures`` being performed on the most innocent and defenseless members of our society. If it is torture to make a prisoner stand inside an air-conditioned room on a hot day, how must the agonies of the aborted be construed?

But the MSM will tell us nothing of these horrors, but will instead focus on the girl who, truth be told, created her own predicament.  Because she is young she hopes to get a do-over, to ``make it not happen`` and she is vulnerable to predatory sales practices by abortion providers.  This is murder in the name of convenience, yet our grand watchdogs in the media will never admit that fact.

Anyone who has seen an ultrasound of an abortion will see the baby squirm to escape the abortionists implements.  It is fairly clear that the baby feels the agony of approaching murder, yet is powerless to stop it.  Why doesn`t the press play some of these scenes, and let the public decide?  They won`t, not because of the graphic nature (Jerry Springer is more graphic in it`s own way) but because they KNOW it will affect public perception of this barbaric act.  Once again, the press has anointed itself as the arbiters of public policy, the puppet masters who will decide what is fit for the public. 

So the next time you hear a story about ``big oil`` or the evils of tobacco, remember Big Abortion and those innocents whose blood cries out for vengence. 

If God is just there will be recompense; I shudder when I consider that prospect.


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October 25, 2007

The War on Scouting

There is a liberal war on the Boy Scouts, and here is just one more volley:

The Boy Scouts’ Philadelphia branch, called the Cradle of Liberty Council, had been renting the Beaux Arts building, which stands on city-owned land, for $1 a year. The city has now ordered the Scouts to pay a ‘fair market’ rent of $200,000 on the grounds that the group refuses to admit openly gay Scouts and Scout leaders...

he Boy Scouts, who require a belief in God and therefore also ‘discriminate’ against atheists, are not comfortable with the idea of openly homosexual men leading young boys into the woods. In 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision (with justices Rehnquist, O’Connor, Scalia, Kennedy and Thomas in the majority), upheld the group’s right to bar scoutmasters who are openly gay based on the principle of freedom of association... But the state, or in this case the city of Philadelphia, apparently doesn’t have to give the Scouts a break on their rent. Isn’t it hypocritical, though, to be intolerant in the name of tolerance, to say that it’s wrong to disapprove of the lifestyles of others but OK to condemn the religious and moral beliefs of others?... If America is about anything, it’s about the right to hold beliefs and views with which others disagree, the right to express and act on those views, and the right to freely associate with others holding similar views. That’s not bigotry; it’s true diversity. So a venerable, well-regarded youth group that has done nothing worse than instill formerly uncontroversial values into the millions of young men it has prepared for responsible adulthood is being successfully demonized.

Investor’s Business Daily

Hat tip: Federalist Patriot

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The Carbon Mirage; the Myth of the Anthropogenic Global Warming Catastrophe

John Christy stole the show when he testified before the Senate Commerce Committee back in 2000, and he outmanuevers Miles O`Brien in this exchange in the Wall Street Journal, courtesy of Wil Wirtanen:

John Christy of the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (co-recipient of this year's Nobel Peace Prize) responds to questions by CNN anchor Miles O'Brien:

O'BRIEN: I assume you're not happy about sharing this award with Al Gore. You going to renounce it in some way?

CHRISTY: Well, as a scientist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, I always thought that -- I may sound like the Grinch who stole Christmas here -- that prizes were given for performance, and not for promotional activities.

And, when I look at the world, I see that the carbon dioxide rate is increasing, and energy demand, of course, is increasing. And that's because, without energy, life is brutal and short. So, I don't see very much effect in trying to scare people into not using energy, when it is the very basis of how we can live in our society.

O'BRIEN: So, what about the movie ["An Inconvenient Truth"]; do you take issue with, then, Dr. Christy?

CHRISTY: Well, there's any number of things.

I suppose, fundamentally, it's the fact that someone is speaking about a science that I have been very heavily involved with and have labored so hard in, and been humiliated by, in the sense that the climate is so difficult to understand, Mother Nature is so complex, and so the uncertainties are great, and then to hear someone speak with such certainty and such confidence about what the climate is going to do is -- well, I suppose I could be kind and say, it's annoying to me.

O'BRIEN: But you just got through saying that the carbon dioxide levels are up. Temperatures are going up. There is a certain degree of certainty that goes along with that, right?

CHRISTY: Well, the carbon dioxide is going up. And remember that carbon dioxide is plant food in the fundamental sense. All of life depends on the fact carbon dioxide is in the atmosphere. So, we're fortunate it's not a toxic gas. But, on the other hand, what is the climate doing. And when we build -- and I'm one of the few people in the world that actually builds these climate data sets -- we don't see the catastrophic changes that are being promoted all over the place.

For example, I suppose CNN did not announce two weeks ago when the Antarctic sea ice extent reached its all-time maximum, even though, in the Arctic in the North Pole, it reached its all-time minimum.



Mr. Birdnow has the final word:

Sure, CO2 levels are rising-from 280 parts PER MILLION to 370 ppm of the Earth`s atmosphere.  That is, we now have 370/1,000,000 or thirty seven molecules of CO2 in every one hundred thousand molecules of air, or .00037%!  Much is made of the claim that we have added 35% of the existing CO2 to the atmosphere, but 35% of .00037?

It should be pointed out that we have seen up to ten times the current CO2 levels in the atmosphere during periods cooler than those at current. 

It should also be pointed out that there is competition between CO2 and water vapor for the same energy wavelengths, and that CO2`s energy balance is quickly saturated after a certain point.  On Venus we do not witness this phonomenon, since CO2 composes 98% of the atmosphere, but here where it composes .00037%?  The effect is minimal.

I`m not prepared to reduce worldwide economic development and reorganize the First World economies into an ``economy of scarcity`` to prevent a few more molecules of carbon in my air.  The cure is far worse than the problem.

But then, it`s never really been about the climate to begin with, has it?



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Widening Gap Between Rich and Poor?

Income Gap?  Think again:

The Truth About the Top 1%
October 25, 2007; Page A23

Key legislators and presidential hopefuls in the Democratic Party have proposed raising the top two tax rates. They're also suggesting extra surtaxes for war, for alleviating the Alternative Minimum Tax, for Social Security, and for subsidizing compulsory health insurance. Barack Obama and John Edwards advocate taxing capital gains at 28%; Hillary Clinton favors taxing dividends at the surtaxed income-tax rates.

The argument for these proposals has nothing to do with the impact of higher tax rates on incentives and the economy. It is all about "fairness" -- defined as reducing the top 1%'s share of income.

This political exercise invariably begins by citing dubious statistics about pretax incomes among the top 1% (1.3 million tax returns) as an excuse for raising tax rates on the top 5%, among others. Echoing speeches from Sen. Clinton, Business Week recently exclaimed, "According to new Internal Revenue Service data announced last week, income inequality in the U.S. is at its worst since the 1920s (before the Great Depression). The top percentile of wealthy Americans earned 21.2% of all income in 2005, up from 19% in 2004."

These statistics are extremely misleading.

First of all, the figures do not describe the top percentile's share of "all income," but that group's share of "adjusted" gross income (AGI) reported on individual tax returns. For one thing, thousands of professionals and business owners who used to report most of their income under the corporate tax responded to lower individual income-tax rates after 1986 and 2003 by reporting more income under the individual tax as partnerships, LLCs and Sub-S corporations.

Peter Merrill of PricewaterhouseCoopers found that "since the Tax Reform Act of 1986 . . . the share of business income earned through pass-through entities has increased by 75% from 29% in 1987 to 52% in 2004." Business profits accounted for just 11.1% of the income reported by the top 1% in 1986, according to economists Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez, but that business share leaped to 21.2% by 1988 and to 29.1% in 2005.

It is this bookkeeping shift, moving business income from the corporate to the individual tax, not CEO pay, which raised the top 1%'s share on individual tax returns. Income reported on W2 forms -- salaries, bonuses and exercised stock options -- accounted for only 57.2% of total income among the top 1% in 2005, down from 63% in 2000 and 65.7% in 1986. Real compensation among the top 1% actually fell 7% from 2000 to 2005.

Turning to the denominator of this ratio ("all income"), a huge portion of middle and lower income is no longer reported on tax returns. A larger and larger share of middle-class investment income is now accumulating outside of AGI because it is inside IRA, 401(k) and 529 savings plans.

The CBO reckons the top 1% accounted for more than 59% of all capital gains, interest, dividends and rent reported on individual tax returns by 2004. Yet estimates of the share of national wealth of the top 1% range from 21%-33%.

If the top 1% own 21%-33% of all capital, how could they be collecting 59% of the income from capital? They can't and they aren't. The top 1% is simply reporting a rising share of capital income because those with more modest incomes are keeping a rising share of their capital income unreported -- in IRA, 401(k) and 529 accounts. Millions also shrink their "adjusted" incomes by subtracting contributions to IRAs unavailable to the rich.

Another huge swath of middle and lower income is excluded because AGI includes only the taxable portion of Social Security benefits and totally misses most other transfer payments such as Medicaid, food stamps and the Earned Income Credit. The Canberra Group, an international group of experts on income statistics brought together from 1996-2000 by the OECD, World Bank, U.N. and others, insisted household income must include everything that "increases the recipients' potential to consume or save." Government transfers amounted to $1.5 trillion in 2005 -- more than the total income of the top 1% in the basic Piketty and Saez estimates ($1.2 trillion).

As a result of such huge omissions, and tax avoidance, the AGI of $7.5 trillion in 2005 was $3.7 trillion smaller than pretax personal income (personal income was $10.3 trillion in 2005, after subtracting $875 billion of payroll taxes). Anyone suggesting AGI is a more accurate measure than personal income is obliged to argue that GDP in 2005 was exaggerated by 29.4%.

Estimated income shares from the IRS or Messrs. Piketty and Saez are not about income per household, but income per tax return. That matters because the top fifth of households average two salaries per tax return. The Census Bureau reports that the top fifth accounted for 26.8% of all full-time works last year while the bottom fifth accounted for just 5.7%. In fact, 64.5% of the households in the bottom fifth had nobody working, not even part time for a few weeks. When labor economists discuss income inequality, they habitually switch to speculating about skill-based differences in hourly wages, totally ignoring differences in hours worked.

Third, the latest IRS figures are not comparable with those of 1986, much less with 1929, because the definition of AGI changes with changes in tax law. Such estimates differ greatly, with the IRS saying the top 1% received only 11.3% of income in 1986 (because AGI then excluded 60% of capital gains) while Messrs. Piketty and Saez put that year's figure at 13.1% and the CBO says it was 14%.

The IRS figures only go back to 1986, so the Business Week comparison with the 1920s is invalid. The new figure is from the IRS but the old one is from Messrs. Piketty and Saez. Their recent estimates are also not comparable to their prewar estimates. Before 1944, their figures were obtained by dividing top income shares by 80% of personal income. Their estimates for 2005 were obtained by dividing top incomes by the $6.8 trillion left on tax returns after excluding even taxable transfer payments.

If total income for 2005 was defined as it was for 1928, then the share of the top 1% would have dropped to 13.3% in 2005, compared with 19.8% in 1928. Besides, as Messrs. Piketty and Saez explained, "our long-run series are generally confined to top income and wealth shares and contain little information about bottom segments of the distribution."

A fundamental problem with all tax-based income data involves "taxable income elasticity." Numerous studies, some by Mr. Saez, show that the amount of top income reported on individual tax returns is highly sensitive to changes in marginal tax rates on individual income, corporate income and capital gains. After the tax on dividends was reduced in 2003, for example, top-bracket investors held more dividend-paying stocks in taxable accounts (rather than in nontaxable accounts) and fewer tax-exempt bonds.

When the top tax on capital gains was cut in 1997 and 2003, investors reacted by trading stocks more frequently and realizing more capital gains in taxable accounts. In the Piketty-Saez data, capital gains accounted for only 10.8% of the top 1%'s income from 1987 to 1996, when the capital gains tax was 28%. By contrast, capital gains accounted for 16.9% of the top 1%'s reported income from 1997 through 2002, when the tax was down to 20%.

Even if estimates of the top 1%'s income share were not so sensitive to changes in tax rates, they would still tell us nothing about what happened to incomes among the other 99%. The top 1%'s share always falls in recessions, even aside from capital gains. But that certainly doesn't mean recessions raise everyone else's income.

"It is a disputed question," wrote Messrs. Piketty and Saez, "whether the surge in reported top incomes has been caused by the reduction in taxation at the top through behavioral responses." In fact, their data clearly suggest that higher tax rates on top incomes, dividends and capital gains would sharply reduce top incomes, dividends and capital gains reported on individual tax returns. Such behavioral responses would have little impact on actual income or wealth at the top, while nonetheless leaving middle-income taxpayers stuck with a much larger share of the tax burden.

Mr. Reynolds, a senior fellow with the Cato Institute, is the author of "Income and Wealth" (Greenwood Press 2006).

Thanks Wil Wirtanen!

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October 24, 2007

Global Warming Panic Attack

Pat Buchanan gets it right at World Net Daily:

The global-warming hucksters

Posted: October 23, 2007
1:00 a.m. Eastern

The scaremongers are not always wrong. The Trojans should have listened to Cassandra. But history shows that the scaremongers are usually wrong.

Parson Malthus predicted mass starvation 250 years ago, as the population was growing geometrically, doubling each generation, while agricultural production was going arithmetically, by 2 percent or so a year. But today, with perhaps 1 percent of our population in full-time food production, we are the best-fed and fattest 300 million people on Earth.

Karl Marx was proven dead wrong about the immiseration of the masses under capitalism and the coming revolution in the industrial West, though they still have hopes at Harvard.

Neville Chute's "On the Beach" proved as fictional as "Dr. Strangelove" and "Seven Days in May." Paul Ehrlich's "Population Bomb" never exploded. It fizzled when the Birth Dearth followed the Baby Boom.

"The Crash of '79" never happened. Instead, we got Ronald Reagan and record prosperity. The Club of Rome notwithstanding, we did not run out of oil. The world did not end in Y2K, when we crossed the millennium, as some had prophesied. "Nuclear winter," where we were all going to freeze to death after the soot from Reagan's nuclear war blotted out the sun, didn't quite happen. Rather, the Soviet Empire gave up the ghost.

Is then global warming – a steady rise in the temperature of the Earth to where the polar ice caps melt, oceans rise 23 feet, cities sink into the sea and horrendous hurricanes devastate the land – an imminent and mortal danger?

Put me down as a disbeliever.

Like the panics of bygone eras, this one has the aspect of yet another re-enactment of the Big Con. The huckster arrives in town, tells all the rubes that disaster impends for them and their families, but says there may be one last chance they can be saved – but it will take a lot of money. And the folks should go about collecting it, right now.

This, it seems to me, is what the global-warming scare and scam are all about  frightening Americans into transferring sovereignty, power and wealth to a global political elite that claims it alone understands the crisis and it alone can save us from impending disaster.

Under the Kyoto Protocol, from which China and India were exempt, the United States was to reduce carbon emissions to 1990 levels, which could not be done without inducing a new Depression and reducing the standard of living of the American people. So, we ignored Kyoto – and how have we suffered? The Europeans who signed on also largely ignored it. How have they suffered?

We are told global warming was responsible for the hurricane summer of Katrina and Rita that devastated Texas, Mississippi and New Orleans. Yet Dr. William Gray, perhaps the nation's foremost expert on hurricanes, says he and his most experienced colleagues believe humans have little impact on global warming and global warming cannot explain the frequency or ferocity of hurricanes. After all, we had more hurricanes in the first half of the 20th century than in the last 50 years, as global warming was taking place.

"We're brainwashing our children," says Gray. "They're going to the Gore movie ('An Inconvenient Truth') and being fed all this. It's ridiculous. ... We'll look back on all of this in 10 or 15 years and realize how foolish it was."

Gray does concede that for a scholar to question global warming can put his next federal grant in mortal peril.

While modest warming has taken place, there is no conclusive evidence human beings are responsible, no conclusive evidence Earth's temperature is rising dangerously or will reach intolerable levels and no conclusive evidence that warming will do more harm than good.

The glaciers may be receding, but the polar bear population is growing, alarmingly in some Canadian Indian villages. Though more people on our planet of 6 billion may die of heat, estimates are that many more may be spared death from the cold. The Arctic ice cap may be shrinking, but that may mean year-round passage through northern Canadian waters from the Atlantic to the Pacific and the immense resources of the Arctic made more accessible to man. Why else did Vladimir Putin's boys make their dash to claim the pole?

The mammoth government we have today is a result of politicians rushing to solve "crises" by creating and empowering new federal agencies.

Whether it's hunger, poverty or homelessness, in the end, the poor are always with us, but now we have something else always with us: scores of thousands of federal bureaucrats and armies of academics to study the problem and assess the progress, with all their pay and benefits provided by our tax dollars.

Cal Coolidge said that when you see 10 troubles coming up the road toward you, sometimes the best thing to do is nothing, because nine of them will fall into the ditch before they get to you. And so it will be with global warming, if we don't sell out America to the hucksters who would save us.

Muchas Gracious to Wil Wirtanen

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Why Rupert Murdoch is Winning

Steve Boriss explains the success of Rupert Murdoch and Fox News, and explains why his competition is faltering in a piece at Pajamas Media today.

Steve`s point is that Murdoch treats news as a business, giving people stories they want and not belittling their views, as opposed to our friends in the MSM who seem determined to offend and mock their clientele. 

Of course, the government giveth and the government taketh away, and there is always the danger of a new ``Fairness Doctrine`` or a breakup of Murdoch`s empire.  Still, Pandora`s Box has been opened, and the old guard cannot close it. 

We need more, however; Conservatives are too quick to praise their quick little mammalian media while pretend the dinosaurs are finished.  We let the Left buy up many outlets when they come up for sale, and that is a mistake.

Still, we are winning the battle over the dissemination of information. The truth is coming out, and when that happens we win.

The future is looking bright!

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Red Dragon Rising

Writing in Newsmax, Lev Navrazov rides his particular hobbyhorse once again; he trumpets the dangers of an alleged Chinese nano-tech Manhattan Project.

For those who do not know, nano technology is robotics in super miniature; the idea is to build super tiny machines which can manipulate molecules.  Now, such machines needn`t be overly complex, just programmable to a degree.  A nanobot could repair damage to a DNA strand, say, curing someone of a genetic illness.  It could be used to pull Uranium 238 out from low grade yellowcake, or break down an oil spill, or do many things which we would love to do.  Of course, it is extraordinarily difficult to build and manipulate something at that size, and the nano machines are as likely to cause mischief as do what we want.

Destruction is, of course, easier to accomplish than construction in this fallen world, and it should be easier to build some nano nightmare for military application.  A bot which breaks down semi-conducters, say, or eats the steel re-enforcing rods out of buildings, or even acts as a super plague, damaging human genetic material in a way that it cannot be repaired.

Let me state for the record that I have misgivings on the whole nano business, but then I may have had doubts about the feasibility of splitting the atom to destroy cities.  I tend to think the Chinese are wasting their time, but I could be wrong; we have to plan as if they could do it.

Considering that the Chinese are working feverishly to develop space weapons (as I point out in the post below) one should not be surprised that they are working on more exotic technologies, something that could destroy the West`s technical superiority in one fell swoop.

China is very dangerous, in my view.  We have been far to lax in our vision of them, preferring to see them as smiling Buddhas wearing bowling jackets.  There aren`t; they are smart, dedicated, and could well overtake us if we aren`t dilligent.  They have been funding the Clinton machine for years, and if Hillary gets into office our technology will fly out the door as payment to her Mandarin Masters.

We should be very concerned.

Which brings up an interesting point; I came across this story yesterday about the merger of investment giant Bear Stearns Cos. with the Chinese Citic Securities.  Citic is owned by the Chinese government, and they are partnering with an American financial powerhouse. 

Former Bear Stearns Chairman Alan ``Ace`` Greenberg was a committed Democrat.  Also, Bill Clinton`s SBA director Aida Alvarez came out of this firm, as did Carol Bellamy, the woman who radicalized UNICEF for Slick Willie.

Is this acquisition a new way to finance Hillary`s run for the presidency? 

Interesting question, no?

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October 23, 2007

More Chinese Space Weapons

The Chinese are pushing forward with more anti-satellite space weaponry. The ability to destroy satellites serves only one purpose; war with the United States. 

We should stop counting on ``engagement`` to solve our problems; the more engaged we are the stronger China becomes.  The key to Chinese success has been and will continue to be trade with America, yet they are taking every effort to engage in a cold war with us.  If they want to play with the big boys, they should be treated in kind.  We could crush their economy if we should so choose.  I think we should so choose, if we have any sense.

Of course, that`s why they are financing Mrs. Clinton`s presidential campaign.  Where is the Department of Justice? 

We declared victory in the Cold War when the Soviet Union fell, and have been pretending that China is just a warm fuzzy Panda Teddy ever since.  Quite foolish.

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Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Albert Arnold Gore

This describes the Undulating Bore Al Gore to a T:

``Al Gore, the latest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, is a poor choice, one likely not to stand the test of time. Leaving aside the school-marmish, preachy, superior attitude that makes him such a magnet for parody, Gore is a phony. On the basis of his actions and writings over many years my guess is that Gore suffers from Narcissistic Personality Disorder. The criteria for this diagnosis, as described in the psychiatrist’s bible, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, include a ‘pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy... a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)... a preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love; believes that he or she is special and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions), and... shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes.’ People who suffer from Narcissistic Personality Disorder are tough to be around. They make terrible bosses, unbearable in-laws and insufferable neighbors. That’s why I don’t want Al Gore to be president or to live next door to me.``

Hoover Institution fellow Dr. Henry Miller

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October 22, 2007

The Return Home; an Ending to our Ozark Hilton Travelogue

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Robert Frost, Stopping by Woods On a Snowy Evening

For those of you who tagged along on my trip to the Ozark Hilton (tbirdnow.mee.nu/an_ozark_hilton_travelogue), We have been waiting patiently to head for home, and I think it is high time we high-tailed it out of these mountains.  We are in for a treat, because we will be traveling home by a different path, journeying through the most beautiful and enchanting parts of the state of Missouri.  This will be a more leisurely, less drunken trip, so sit back and enjoy.

We start by heading west on highway 34, passing through the hamlet of Garwood (which consists of several ramshackled houses and a sawmill) and driving through the back country to state highway 21.  We`ll be driving through the Webb Creek Conservation Area and the Bicentenial Forest, and we won`t find much in the way of civilization, but that will change. We will make a little side trip to Big Springs and the Current River. The Current River flows through the town of Van Buren (about fifteen minutes from the OH) and we`ll be there soon, so don`t get too comfortable.  We`ll head south, passing yet another working Drive-In theatre (the 21 Drive In), and will turn onto U.S. 60, heading west.  Van Buren is a canoists paradise.  It acts as the gate for the Ozark National Scenic Waterways, the first such designation in the country.  The Current river is a beautiful, chrystal clear stream, and nobody builds along it because it is owned by the federal government. On summer weekends floaters positively choke the waterway, but in fall and winter we should have a bit of peace.  The river passes right through the town of Van Buren, which is replete with ice-cream parlors, motels, diners, and the other accutrements of a resort community.  We will be turning off 60 onto the road to Big Springs, and we`ll make a quick detour onto Skyline Drive.  This mountain ridge sits waaayy up high, and there are luxury homes perched like eagle`s aeries hanging over the town.  I`ve been there when clouds slip below the mountain crest and the town languishes in mist and fog while Skyline Drive enjoys a bright sunny day.  There is a restaurant up there as well, and we really should stop for a bite, but we have a long way to go!  Some day I`ll eat there and enjoy the spectacular view.

Now we`re going down, driving through the Mark Twain National Forest toward Big Springs.  This is the largest spring in the midwest (it may be largest in America, but I`m not certain) and it pours out 286 million gallons of water EVERY DAY! A river literally flows out of the spring to merge with the Current river.  It is a magnificent sight; a frothy white waterfall pouring out of the rocks, as though Moses had struck with his staff extra hard, the bright blue of the icy water in the pool surrounding the spring, the cave in the backdrop. The river flowing off the pool is absolutely clear, with fish and river snakes visible as it rolls toward the Current.  There is a state park to preserve the natural beauty, and that park rents some stone cottages built onto a hillside overlooking the spring valley below. I will be staying in one of them next week.

We are making our third annual pilgrimage to the spring; this is as close as I can get my wife to camping.  Her siblings and two nieces will be accompanying us, and we`ve had an enjoyable time in the past, so I am looking forward to the stay. The cottages are rustic and beautiful; made of stone rather than logs and with high vaulted ceilings, these are based on English country homes rather than American pioneer cabins.  They hang from the side of the hill, and one rather has the impression of dangling while sitting out on the patio.  Enormous stone fireplaces are in both rooms, and a full kitchen and bath round out the experience.

The first year we went in November, and the park had made those cabins available in the fall for the first time.  Now, those buildings were designed for cooling, not for heating, and the stone fireplaces are romantic but very inefficient.  It was unseasonably cold, and we spent the coldest night I can remember, shivering under a mountain of blankets.  Actually, my wife and I stayed in the room with her nieces, and they may have shivered but I was too busy feeding and tending the fire to keep the temperature in the room above freezing. (We must have burned a cord of wood that first night.)   I`ve camped in tents on bitter winter nights, but this was colder!  That first night I was inches away from packing up and heading to my own humble homestead with the smokey but warm fire!  We toughed it out, and the days were fine, but both nights we stayed were miserable.

Last year I brought two electric space heaters, which warmed those old cottages up to a tolerable level, although it kept blowing the circuit breakers.  I`ll be bringing them again this year.

One final note; I`m worried about bedbugs.  They have returned to the United States, and foreign people probably stay in those cabins, so they may be infested.  I`m definitely checking for blood trails before sleeping in those things!

It`s time to press on.

If we continue down highway 60 we could visit Thayer and Grand Gulf. An enormous cavern collapsed forming the ``Grand Canyon of the East`` and Grand Gulf is a spectacular sight, although lilliputian compared to it`s western cousin.  If 7lb. Dave were to tag along he would insist we visit the Little Yeoman Brewery in Willow Springs, so named because it resides on a farm on the side of Little Yeoman mountain.  The place is, shall we say, rustic with a shack housing the brewery and an open-air deck for a tasting room.  When last we visited the ZZ Top-bearded owner poured us free beers while rolling a cigarette, and he would have kept us all day if we were a mind to ``set a spell``.  I don`t think we have time, and the place is under new management anyway, so we`ll head for home.

Back to 21 and north.  We drive for miles along a ridge with mighty pine trees standing sentry, militarily green against the autumn colors, a company of wooden soldiers to act as our honor guard as we pass.  Miles of pine soldiers, occasionally broken by crumbling red cliffs or the occasional country home.  We pass through a couple of small towns with old 19th century houses, cross several forks of the Black River, as we drive ever northward. We sail over undulating hills like ancient mariners, hills which embrace and nurture us like an infant snuggling the breasts of his mother. We`ll pass through Ellington, cross the Black, and head on up ever higher into the Ozarks.

Past Centerville is the turn to Sutton`s Bluff.  This is a true wilderness, completely devoid of inhabitants.  The Bluff is a campground on the Black, with a very high bluff hanging over the river access and a nice campground.  Past the bluff is 30 miles of the most forlorn woodland you will find in Missouri, a gravel road with little purpose.  I once drove it, and nearly ran out of gas in the midst of that desolate wilderness; I was on fumes when I made it out of this great stretch of the Mark Twain Forest.  We`ll just visit the Bluff and return to our drive.

We pass through Lesterville, one of the major canoeing resort areas, and we`ll pass the turn to the Taum Sauk reservoir.  The reservoir is a hydroelectric dam and lake, and a year ago the dam broke, sending a wall of water down the Black River and through Johnson Shut-ins State Park.  Fortunately, the park was empty (it was winter) except for the Ranger`s two children, who were swept away by the flood.  Fortunately, they were rescued and recovered, despite bad cases of hypothermia.  Had the dam broke in the summer a good number of people would have died; campers at the park and day-use people.  Ameren U.E. was lucky; they would have been in huge legal trouble.  The lower reservoir dam held, which also, it should be pointed out, saved Clearwater Lake.  Clearwater is an Army Corps lake, but they have been keeping water levels low for several years because THAT dam is in poor shape.  Had the lower reservoir dam failed the entire Black River watershed would have been flooded.

We now come to the junction of 21 and 49, and to our right we see the Doe Run smelting plant.  When I was looking for property I had an interesting conversation with a realtor about this; there are a large number of empty houses and an abandoned store along the highway, and the realtor explained that Doe Run had to buy them all out.  It seems that somebody noticed that the locals suffered from a number of mysterious maladies and birth defects, and some do-gooder determined that it was the plant causing the trouble.  The realtor (not a local) pointed out that people had been marrying their first cousins in these parts for over a hundred years, and that was as good an explanation as any for the health problems, but that wouldn`t be p.c. at all, so Big Smelting had to take the fall.  Now there are no people living withing 5 miles of the plant.

We will drive through a little valley with pretty open fields full of wildflowers and lots of sunshine.  Next we pass through the Royal Gorge, a canyon with very steep rock cliffs and a beautiful little stream running between large rocks.  The road is fenced by a pretty rock wall, and dense foliage rounds out a postcard picture.  It reminds me somewhat of the Fern Gulley in Jamaica, only rockier.  There is a spot where you can pull of the road to take a picture.  It`s a beautiful place!

Now we are heading up, up, up to the top of the Ozark plateau.  We pass the shell of a stone house with a rail fence, and come to the turn off to Taum Sauk mountain.  We turn on the road to Taum Sauk and follow it to the state park.  There is a fork in the road where the pavement ends, and if we turn left we will come to a very high fire tower.  The view is supposed to be spectacular, but I couldn`t say; I tried to climb it once, but fear of heights froze me at about a third of the way up.  I had a devil of a time getting myself back down, I might add.  Try it if you like-just don`t expect me to accompany you!

We`ll take the other fork, and come to a large wooden deck set on a spectacular overlook.  A large glade affords a view of many of the mountains in the area, and a map tells you what you are looking at. Russel Mountain, Pilot Knob, Iron Mountain, Beauford Mountain, a chain of beautiful blue and green rising out of the Arcadia and Belleview valleys.  The glade itself is full of wildflowers (and scorpions, snakes, and rats).  This is one of the most majestic visages I have seen, as wonderful as the Rockies if less spectacular. Here summitpost.org/view_object.php?object_id=154007 are some images from Taum Sauk.

We`ll walk up to the highest point in Missouri; there is a large rock with a plaque, and you can step on the rock and literally be the highest person in the State still touching the ground. 

We`ll also hike down to Mina Sauk Falls.  The falls are dry much of the year, but in wet weather the springs run and the water cascades over the staircase of rocks to the valley below.  A series of granite glades interspersed with the hardwood forests opens on the wide, rocky steps of the Falls, which run for hundreds of yards downslope.

One spring is special; a year round pool which is certified as pure and completely potable, and tastes sweet as honey, God`s gift to a thirsty hiker on a summer day. 

As I boy I hiked the Taum Sauk trail with the Scouts; it was one of the most brutal trails I have ever taken.  Straight up Pilot Knob, then over to Taum Sauk, then down into the valley along Minas Sauk Falls (where we camped amid the mosquitos and where, thankfully, several pools of water allowed us to refresh ourselves in the brutal heat and humidity of a Missouri summer) and back up the mountains, to come out at Johnson Shut-ins.  I had new hiking boots, and the sole came off one of them, forcing me to tie it up with rope.  My foot was badly blistered from walking on the rope over the miles while lugging 75 pounds of gear on my back.  Still, the Falls were worth the trouble then, and well worth the 4 mile one way trek for us from the parking lot.

According to legend, Mina Sauk was the beautiful daughter of Taum, King of the Sauk Indians.  She fell in love with the son of an enemy chieftain, and her father had the young would-be groom executed by tossing him down the ledges of the falls, to be caught on the spears of men on each ledge.  In broken-hearted fury Mina prayed to the Great Spirit to avenge her lover`s death, then leapt to her death beside her beloved.  The Great Spirit called upon the Storm King, who wiped out the Sauk killers with a bolt of lightening, opening the spring which feeds the falls to wash away the blood of Mina and her beloved.  Crimson flowers blossomed along the banks of the falls, a tribute to the dead.

Once we return from the Falls we`ll head back to 21 and south into Arcadia.  We`ll pass the Red Baron restaurant (I have to eat there some day!) and a bed and breakfast inn, as well as a goat farm and a number of ramshackled hillbilly homes, then drop into the flats. An old Catholic girls school, Ursuline Academy, becons with a huge antique mall, and we would stop for the ladies, but since they didn`t come on this trip we`ll press on. 

We need gas, so we`ll stop at the local Conoco, because I have something I want to show you.  I went fishing with 7lb. Dave in this area once, and he was discussing the ease which criminals would find in robbing such a place. He asked ``what would stop them from robbing this gas station`` and on que we stepped into the back room to a Cathedral of firearms.  I waved my hands expansively and said ``this``!  There must be a thousand guns here; handguns, semi-automatic rifles, shotguns, hunting bows, bowie knives, everything the brave warrior would require to make war upon such vicious enemies of mankind as deer, rabbits, possums, and squirrels.  What really makes this place so fascinating is that it is also a prime source of spirits, with beer and wine for sale as well as commodities for those who prefer their liquor more direct; half pints, pints, fifths, even half gallons of bourbon whiskey, rum, vodka, schnapps.  A Confederate battle flag flying over this cornucopia of liquor and firearms rounds out this uniquely American, uniquely Ozark experience!  Oh, and you can buy gas to fill your pickup to tote all that liquor and firepower.

Speaking of Confederate battle flags, this area is lousy with them; you are in the Confederacy, boy, and you had best not forget it!  The man who forgets to tip his hat at the mention of President Jeff Davis is in for a world of hurt-especially given what we found in the gas station.  It is unwise to travel with ``Land of Lincoln`` plates on your car.

This will be apparent at the next place we are going; heading north, we`ll pass through Ironton and exit at the town of Pilot Knob for Fort Davidson and the site of the big Civil War battle. (See this caulleycorner.com/history.html) On September 26, 1864 former Missouri governor and Confederate general Sterling Price decided to make one last foray into Missouri, intending to take St. Louis and hopefully break the Union stranglehold on the Mississippi river.  Marching with 12,000 men, he found Fort Davidson occupied by a garrison of 1450 troops led by Thomas Ewing Jr. (brother-in-law of William Tecumseh Sherman) and he made the same mistake that Lee made at Gettysburg; he expended his troops trying to take an outpost that wasn`t worth taking. Over a thousand men lay dead or wounded in just 20 minutes of fighting in what was one of the bloodiest battles of the entire war!

One of Price`s commanders, Joe Shelby, advocated circumventing this garrison and moving toward St. Louis, but he was outvoted and Price decided to attack.  The Fort had a wide open plain, a killing field, surrounding the battlements, although it was vulnerable to shelling from the mountains.  Price decided, as had Lee at Gettysburg, to make a full frontal assault.  His men marched slowly through a blizzard of rifle and cannon fire, coming within 30 feet of the fortifications before breaking ranks-at a huge cost in lives. 

Ewing realized that, while Price`s army was busy licking their wounds, they would sensibly bring cannon up Pilot Knob and Shepherd Mountain to shell his camp to dust.  In the dead of night he packed up his entire command and slipped away, leaving Price with an empty fort and his enemy still alive and fighting.  He hustled back to defend St. Louis, and Price`s losses made his invasion plan untenable.  The Confederacy would never mount any major offensive in the West again.

There is nothing left of the fort now but some foxholes and earthen battlements.  It`s a lonely place to visit, haunted by the ghosts of the men who died in that terrible battle. 

Once a year re-enactors refight the battle there at Fort Davidson.  I`ve never actually caught the battle, but have stopped in when the men are in camp, enjoying themselves after the action.

Now that we have seen a bit of history and pondered the bravery of our great, great grandfathers, we should press on to other things. Our next stop is Johnson Shut-ins State Park. 

We turn just outside of Pilot Knob and drive 19 miles to the park.  It has reopened,although they don`t let you camp there yet.  Still, the river is the main attraction; the shut-ins (a shut-in is a canyon constricting the river) force the Black river over a chain of boulders, long since smoothed by the river.  A series of chutes and waterfalls are formed, nature`s very own waterpark!  You can start at the top and jump down a chain of small 3-4 foot high waterfalls, like a long waterslide, or sit with the water pouring over your neck.  Tip your head back and you can sit INSIDE the falls!  At the bottom there is a higher waterfall with a very deep pool, and it will suck you under as you hit the water.  Once past the chain of rocks there is a high bluff-at least 30 feet-that people jump off for a cool dip.  You have to be careful; an insufficient pushoff can cause you to hit the rocks below.  People die there sometimes.  I once messed up my jump and got an atomic wedgie; the water pulled my trunks just about past my ears, making me speak like Mickey Mouse for the rest of the day!

Pushing on, we come to Graniteville and will stop at Elephant Rocks. This is a strange place; more like what one expects to find on Mars than on Earth.  Enormous, house-sized boulders dot the landscape, and you can picnic under these massive rounded granite blocks.  There is a trail you can hike, complete with zigzagging crevices between massive granite slabs.  These are strange, strange, strange; pink boulders covered with gray moss, round as eggs sitting on solid rock ``pavement``.  The park takes it`s name from the chain of ancient granite boulders which strikingly resemble a parade of pink pachyderms.  Each boulder is 20 feet or more in diameter, and they sit on a granite plain on a bluff as if on stage for viewing.  There is a quarry with a lake that they used to let people swim in, but no longer.  Granite was quarried from this area for making cobblestones and other rocky material for building in St. Louis.  I`ve used some granite blocks I`ve found in abandoned buildings for my cabin, and they likely came from here. This is a truly wonderous place, something out of a fairy tale. 

We`re nearing the end of our travelogue; there are plenty of miles to travel, but they are largely through uninteresting territory.  We`ll head north through the Belleview valley, a magnificent place with wide, open fields full of cattle and ringed by the mighty mountains dressed in their seasonal best. We`ll pass through Caledonia, one of the oldest communities in Missouri and a delightful little main street complete with 19th century buildings, a bed and breakfast inn and wine garden, antique shops and an ice-cream parlor.  Caledonia sits at the junction of state highways 21 and 32, and we can take either home.  Up 21 we`ll come to the grave of my great grandmother, who lies buried in a tiny Methodist cemetary.  If we push north we can stop at Council Bluff lake, or even divert to Dillard to see a charming old gristmill, complete with dairy cows, a mill pond, and a wonderful old red mill, something out of Wisconsin or even Holland.  I don`t know if we want to go that far, and I want to take you to see Bismark.

We turn down 32, traveling through a long, open country flanked by the ever-present St. Francois Mountains.  There`s Cedar Creek, where my father took us swimming when we were children. There`s the place I saw the wolf on the road!  It was at night, an honest to goodness wolf with red eyes, a long snout with sharp fangs, like something out of a Grim`s Fairy Tale.  That old log cabin on the right was the place we camped that time, the one with the little lake and the loudest bullfrogs I have ever heard.  We untied the floating dock and paddled it around the swampy little lake all day!  I had trouble sleeping, because there were too many spiders and one took up residence directly over my head.  Ah, the memories of youth...

We now come into the town of Bismark; a one-time rail center, now largely forgotten.  We turn before we reach the train tracks and ``downtown`` -the old, decrepit buildings on main-because we want to visit Great Grandma`s farm. She wasn`t much of a farmer, from what my father says, barely scraping by, but Great Grandpa worked on the railroad, and they made do.  Grandpa liked to drink, and Grandma didn`t believe in it, so he would tell her he was getting home a day later than he planned, and would spend the evening in the one local tavern and sleep at the hotel.  One time he had a bit too much and walked home, not quite making it to the door, but instead taking his rest in the drive to the old house. My father said she never said a word, but he knew there was going to be major trouble when he and his brother left.

My father grew up on that farm, at least part of his youth.  His father would be laid off for months at a time from the Missouri-Pacific, and he would send my dad and uncle to live there while money was tight.  The farm was, shall we say, rustic with no electricity, no plumbing, not even a well; they had to tote buckets of water from the creek on the property, being extra careful not to step on the rattlesnakes which inhabited the creekbed.  Grandma would sometimes rent a pig or two to clean the snakes out.  She eventually had a well drilled at some expense, but the water  tasted terrible, so they continued to drink from the creek. 

Life was-different there.  Once in the dead of night Great Grandma saw a light in the chicken coop, and my great grandfather opened up with both barrels of his shotgun.  The light went out and stayed out, but they never knew.  The law was far away, and they had to take care of themselves.  Great Grandma told me the story of her less-than-bright brother walking past a deserted farmhouse one night and hearing cries ``help me!`` ,``help me``.  Not having good sense, he walked through the abandoned building but found nothing.  The next day the local sheriffs found a man dead in one of the closets; he had been tied up and left to die. 

Grandma was a lousy farmer, but she loved it, and her Oldsmobile was always packed with chickens, pigs, once even a calf she had bought at an auction.  She had a farm hand named Jim Lowe, an honest-to-goodness mountain man.  Jim lived in a log cabin with a dirt floor his pappy had build, hunted with his father`s civil war muskett, and signed his checks (when he had to use them) with an X since he could neither read nor write.  My father said he lived in the backwoods since killing a man in a fight over a card game, and he didn`t like to work very hard. Once somebody was stealing wood from his pile so he hollowed out a log and put a stick of dynomite inside.  The pilfering stopped, and nobody bothered Jim Lowe`s woodpile again...

I don`t remember much about the farm, except what I saw after she moved; the taxman devoured it in bites, finally swallowing the last of it when I was very young.  Great grandma lived in a house on the edge of town after that.  She continued to drive well into her 90`s, and she had a lead foot.  I rode with her a couple of times; it was like riding with Mr. Magoo.  She neither saw nor heard well, and she barrelled down those country lanes at warp speed, slinging gravel and dust behind her like shotgun pellets.  The Sheriff told her he was going to have her licence pulled, and she retorted that she would continue to drive without one.  When he warned her he would have to put her in jail she told him she would be driving every minute she was out of the slammer.  The deputies followed her whenever she left her house after that, to make sure nobody got hurt. 

She was the fastest fried chicken cook in the world, taking a bird from a living state to the table in about half an hour-including mashed potatoes, gravy, bisquits, and green beans.  Hers was the best chicken I have ever tasted in my life, and I`ve tasted many!

She also collected the most motley looking rabble of critters you have ever seen; mangy dogs, flea-infested cats, any creature that came to her could stay.  Her house was overrun with these sorry looking beasts, but her heart would not allow her to turn away a stray-that included people, too, who would often ``visit for a spell``. 

Married at age 16, she grew up with horses and buggies, and would never have dishonored her family by straddling a horse-a lady always sat sidesaddle, she would say.  She blamed Woodrow Wilson for the First World War, and Franklin Roosevelt was the only thing that could make her cuss (she was a Methodist, after all, and a very proper woman).  I used to love visiting her when I was a boy.

My father would take us to Bismark Lake, a fairly large lake created when the WPA dammed the St. Francis River.  Dad would sneak us to the dam over private property; we had to be very quiet while walking down a very rocky path.  The dam was about 60 feet high, and we would walk across it to the far shore, with dad ordering us to stay on the lake side of the 5 foot wide structure.  More than a few times I fell into the lake, but fortunately never plunged off the wrong side!  We would go below the dam and look for frogs on the many islands which dotted this, the headwaters of the St. Francis.  My dad spent many happy hours as a boy doing the same thing.

Great grandma is gone now, as is her son (my grandfather).  She died at age 98, and her daughter-in-law (my grandmother) is now in her hundreds. We have longevity in our genes!  I still visit Bismark occasionally to remember my family, and the times which live now only in our memories.  Some day they`ll be gone, too.  Bismark lake is now a park, the farm is owned by strangers, and even Grandma`s house in town is now spiffed up.  Nothing last forever, especially not good old days!

Our time is about up, we have to get home.  We head down 32, passing St. Joe State Park where people go to ride dune buggies and ATV`s (and where my Dad`s cousin lives with the park in his back yard), past an ancient wreck of an old lead plant which now serves as the lead mining museum.  We`ll pass the largest slag heap in the area, and if the wind is blowing the dust storm will rival those in Saudi Arabia.  We pass through Park Hills, a community formed by the union of Flatriver, River Mines, Elvins, and Federal Park.  Many local officials went to jail as a result of the audit performed when these communities merged.  As far as I`m concerned this is still Flatriver; old, run down, a symbol of the poverty and back country ways of the old Ozarks.  We soon come to U.S. 67 and turn north for home.  It was a good trip.





Posted by: Timothy Birdnow at 04:57 PM | No Comments | Add Comment
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U.N. Wants Greater Role in Iraq With Victory in Sight

Now that the surge has nearly broken Al Qaeda in Iraq, the United Nations wants in to share in the victory.

Please note that the U.N. failed to back the invasion, and failed to provide any help whatsoever when the reconstruction was going badly.  Now that it looks like we may be at the endgame they want a greater role.

Oh, and they want to bleed more money out of their members:

The Under-Secretary-General also issued a strong appeal for Member States to support the UN’s efforts. ``Importantly, the United Nations must be afforded the necessary political and humanitarian space to implement the new mandate and the ability of the Organization to talk with all sides must be protected and respected,`` he said.

``Security arrangements and financial and logistical backing are also essential for the success of the UN Mission in Iraq,`` he added.

Mr. Pascoe voiced gratitude to countries now supporting the UN’s work in Iraq while urging States to provide additional resources for the mission. He pointed out that a trust fund established to support the ‘Distinct Entity’ that provides protection for the UN will be exhausted next month, while needs are clear ``at least through 2008.``

He warned that, without an immediate infusion of funds, ``the ability of the UN to operate in Iraq could be severely compromised.``

The magnitude of the challenges facing Iraq call for an international response which the UN is well-placed to meet, he said. ``It is our belief that the new UN mandate, matched by strong international support, provides the necessary framework to move toward building a more stable Iraq.``

This brings the Little Red Hen to mind; nobody wants to do the dirty work, but all want to share in the feast after it is done. 

What use is the U.N.?

Posted by: Timothy Birdnow at 06:53 AM | No Comments | Add Comment
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