GM's Corner
An American Family
Celeste Fremon of the LA Weekly has written a long article on the trials and tribulations of one "American Family." From drug raids to rehabilitation/salvation, the story is a good one and one that Celeste put in a year on. As a counselor, I know that people can and do change for the better, I hope Mr. Aguilar is one of them. Read the whole thing if you want to see writing at it's best. As Celeste notes:
The original idea behind the "An American Family" series was to examine the lives of one recent parolee and his family and, in so doing, look at issues and difficulties faced by other, similar families in urban centers all around the country. After all, in the United States of America, on any given day, there are more than 2 million men and women being held in state and federal prisons and jails. Eventually over 95 percent of those incarcerated will, like Luis, return to the community — 600,000 are returning in this year alone. Nearly one in five of those parolees will be returning to the streets of California.

Like Luis, most will face an immense number of institutional, psychological and societal barriers as they attempt to restart their lives. The majority, like Luis, have spouses and children who struggle right along with them during this repair process — or suffer without them, if they end up back in prison.

All this convinced my editors and me that, with the Aguilars, we had a story worth telling. We never imagined how complex that story would become.

Read the whole thing, it's time well spent.

Ramsey Clarke, Defender of Thugs!
Ramsey Clarke, former Attorney General of the United States has joined the Saddam Hussein Defense team according to Aljazeera. Mr. Clarke noted that the US should be tried as well. Why am I not surprised?

Now, I have no problem with Saddam having the best possible defense that he can get. I have no problem if the courts decide he is innocent (fat chance though that may be) and let him go. I have no problem with Mr. Clarke taking on clients, I only wonder why he takes on the most thuggish dictators as clients if and only if they have an anti-US mien.

There will be those who will disagree with me, and that is OK, they have every right to be totally, unmitigatedly, absolutely wrong.

Of Tsunami's and Disaster
As of this morning, there are some 67,000 dead in the Asian Tidalwave following a 9.0 undersea quake. This number is mind boggling. There are credible reports that the eventual number of dead may reach 100,000 souls and an additional tens of thousands may die as a result of disease following the disaster.

Rather than put everything aside and pitch in, some folk are leaping to blame Bush for not responding fast enough, blame the UN for inadequate preparation, blame.... Well, a pox on all their houses (irony of statement noted). This is a natural disaster unprecedented in my adult life, how do you plan for something like this? The only rational answer is of course, that you can't.

You can help however. Link to one of these sites and do what you can in the name of our common humanity. World Vision International, CARE, Amazon Relief Webpage, International Red Cross in a variety of South East Asian countries, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, South East Asia Earthquake and Tsunami website

Many of your favorite blogs have other sites where you can help. Go!

Lastly, and I know that this is a gratuitous slap at James Wolcott, but the man has got to be regretting this:
I root for hurricanes. When, courtesy of the Weather Channel, I see one forming in the ocean off the coast of Africa, I find myself longing for it to become big and strong--Mother Nature's fist of fury, Gaia's stern rebuke. Considering the havoc mankind has wreaked upon nature with deforesting, stripmining, and the destruction of animal habitat, it only seems fair that nature get some of itsown back and teach us that there are forces greater than our own.

Still rooting for "Mother Nature" Jimbo?

UPDATE (9:35 AM CST): The death toll now is over 76,000. My God, this tragedy cannot be described with words alone.

UPDATE (4:15 PM CST): 100,000+! With the remote areas not even searched yet.

UPDATE (12:40 PM CST - Dec. 30,2004) The number of dead is now over 117,000. Here is a link to the Network for Good site with multiple links to help. Please help where you can with what you can.

UPDATE (2:09 PM CST): Celeste Fremon (a good writer for LA Weekly and a very, very special person) has a link that also has a long history of helping here!

Liberal Iraqi
One of my daily reads is Michael Totten's blog. His latest is an excellent column about a new Iraqi blog by Ali, a Liberal Iraqi. Read Michael's blog in it's entirety then go here for the new blog. Michael is right; publicize this blog-it's different!

Reid: Colorless?
There is a good read on Reid here by Chris Suellentrop of Slate. When you have read the good read on Reid, you will have read something worthwhile. Colorless he ain't. Read the whole read on Reid, as I said, it's a good read!

With a tip of the chapeau to Polipundit!

Merry Christmas!
"For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord"
{Luke 2:11}.

Merry Christmas Everyone!

NUTS! December 22, 1944
December 16th, 1944 was a cold, dreary day in Bastogne. The Germans began planning the offensive as a last ditch stand in September, 1944. They were already losing the war, which was apparent to everyone perhaps except Hitler. Field Marshall Alfred Jodel was given the task of coming up with a counter-attack in the Aachan - Southern Luxemburg/France area as the Allies had only a single tank division and four infantry divisions in that area. The ultimate goal was Antwerp Belgium and cutting the Allies in half.

This set the stage for the largest land battle of WWII in which the United states participated. In all, 19,000 Americans were killed in action, 200 British troops and the Germans lost over 100,000 soldiers killed, wounded or captured.

The Ardennes Offensive on the web is a well written article which you need to read it in full. On December 22, 1944 60 years ago today, the German commander, General der Panzertruppe von Luttwitz Commander of XLVII Panzerhops sent a note to General McAuliffe demanding surrender of Bastogne. Col. H.W.O. Kinnard (101st Airborne) picks up the story from there.

My recollection of the German surrender ultimatum, and the "Nuts" reply by McAuliffe goes like this. On the 22nd of December, when the division was and had been totally surrounded by the Germans, the intelligence officer and I decided that we had to take this to General McAuliffe. We first took it to the chief of staff, and the three of us, and Colonel Harper then went in, woke up General McAuliffe who was taking a bit of a nap, and told him that we had a surrender ultimatum. And that Tony McAuliffe had first thought that the Germans were trying to surrender to us. But, we told him no, not so. That they want us to surrender to them, and they go on to say all the bad things that they're going to do if we don't do this. And he said, Tony McAuliffe then said, "I surrender, ah nuts!" And then he sort of pondered about whether he should answer or should it be in writing, and so forth. And everybody agreed that there should be a written answer. And Tony McAuliffe then said, "Well, I don't know what to tell them." And I spoke up and said, "Well, what you first said would be hard to beat." And Tony said, "What do you mean?" And I said, "You said nuts!" And all of us in the room sort of thought that was a good answer. So Tony sat down and wrote out with a pencil, "To the German Commander, Nuts! A.C. McAuliffe, Commanding." Had his secretary type it out. Gave the message to Colonel Harper, who took it back to his headquarters and gave it to the German Armistice party. The Germans were allowed to take off their blindfold and read the message, and they were puzzled by it. And they were trying to translate nuts. And they said, "Nuets, Nuets, Nuts... Vas ist das?" They didn't get it at all. And Colonel Harper said, "If you don't understand it, it means go to hell!"

In all, US forces suffered over 76,000 casualties during the Bulge. With 19,000 killed, that means that in a single month of fighting, we had some 57,000 wounded to contend with. Ronald N. McArthur describes being wounded in battle during the battle:

At the beginning of the Battle of the Bulge, our outfit was a good many miles southeast of the breakthrough point. I was the first gunner in our section of water-cooled 30 caliber machine guns. We were a Heavy Weapons Company of the 45th Division, part of General Patch's 7th Army. We were ordered out between Christmas and New Year's to help close the gap in the line. We traveled nearly a day and a night in a northwesterly direction to our assigned area. We were attached to a rifle company to replace their light 30 caliber machine guns that had been knocked out in the attack.

We set our guns up on the high ground on each side of a trail in the woods. There were several tanks with us in the attack. It was all quiet nearly all afternoon, only a few small arms fired at us during the day. Then, all of a sudden at about four o' clock, we were hit with a terrific artillery barrage. The shells were coming in hitting the trees and exploding. We were exposed to vicious tree burst shrapnel coming down on us. After some time, I told my assistant gunner to man the gun as I was going out to cut some large branch logs that had been knocked down from the shelling. This was afternoon, January 11, 1945. The logs were to be placed over our foxhole to protect from further shell bursts. I left the gun and went about 100 yards toward the lead tank that had been knocked out during the battle. I got about four logs cut when WHAM, I was shot through the face by a German sniper. He had been left behind as we drove Germans off the hill. He was out in front of the knocked out tank.

I fell flat on my face in about 15" of snow. My only thought was, "When will he let me have it again?" The bullet must have been a soft-nosed one as X-rays later revealed that I had pieces of shrapnel in my cheek and the roof of my mouth. The bullet had gone through my left cheek just below the jaw bone and exited out my right cheek, taking nearly all of upper teeth and gums as well as most of the lowers. I remember feeling numbness in my mouth. I thought my tongue was gone. I put my hand in the opening and was relieved to find it intact. The opening of the right cheek was up to under my eye and back nearly to my right ear.

Our medic was nearby. He came and patched the wounds with sulphadiazine powder. In short order, our jeep was there (each section of machine guns had its own jeep). They took me and another GI out to be evacuated to an aid station and several hospitals on my way finally to England and later home, the good old USA.

Women too were at the Bulge, from Viola Milloy:

The Fifty-Sixth General - Viola Molloy, U.S. Army - In July, the Fifty-sixth General shipped over from England to France to set up a tent hospital. One of the hard things about working in a tent hospital was that cots were so low we had to kneel by each one to keep from bending over all the time. Liege, Belgium was our next destination, and we were glad it was a building instead of tents.

During the Battle of the Bulge, in December we were so close to the fighting the patients had to be evacuated. They were just about to evacuate us nurses when the Germans retreated, and we stayed. The casualties came in so fast, nurses had to start blood transfusions, which only doctors had done before. Whatever needed to be done was done by everyone. There was no limit. I'll never forget those young patients, hurt so badly. I felt worse when I saw they were wearing a wedding ring.

One of the treasures left to me by my dad is a complete set of Bill Mauldins Cartoons. Mauldin was only 21 when he shipped out to North Africa. Here is a link to both pictures of our troops during the Battle of the Bulge and within you will find also a link to a sampling of Mauldins cartoons. You'll never regret looking at each one of them.

The courage of the American Soldier under the most difficult of times is admirable. Yet, these hero's are a quiet lot. My late dad was with the 102nd Infantry Division on the edge of the battle, I believe he got his Bronze Star there. Yet, he was modest only when talking about his efforts and effusive about the efforts of others. Growing up in the Army, I remember meeting many veterans of the Bulge, each was the same...modest about self, effusive about his buddies.

These hero's are dying off today, the youngest in the battle are pushing 80. We owe them all a debt of gratitude. They stopped the worst the Germans could throw and still went on to destroy the Third Reich and help save the world. As Tom Brokaw said, they truly are The Greatest Generation.

Lt. Lewis Plush, Fighter Pilot in the First World War possibly said it best: ""Men fought to kill, to maim, to destroy. Some return home, others remain behind forever on the fields of their greatest sacrifice. There was a war, a great war, and now it is over."

That we are free today is a tribute to these brave and wonderful soldiers. The next time you see an old veteran, thank him or her.

The Left in High Dudgeon Over Rummy
"Off with his head!" Can't you just see it? Rumsfeld being led up to the guillotine, slowly mounting the stairs, the crowd yelling with glee for Mr. Bush to pull the rope that will separate Rummy's head from his body. In the courtyard, the bunting is draped, the coffin prepared. The death certificate pre-signed with a robo-pen! Rummy is laid down his neck pinned by the block, the blade comes down at a furious pace, and.... and.... and stops!

Ahh, twas not reality, just the fevered dream of the radicalized left. Unable to unseat George, they've gone after Rummy with a vengence attributing to him all sorts of crimes and stupidities. Some of which may be even true. My good friend Marc Cooper has an excellent post (here) on the charges against Rumsfeld (even though IMHO he has missed the mark) including the charge of torture. Now, lest any of my friends on the left suppose that I am condoning torture, don't go there. I'm not and I think anyone that says "Well, torture in a time of war can be understood" the only answer is "Like Hell It Can!" We are the good guys folks, and we damn sure better remember that.

There is a difference however between torture and "tough" interrogation techniques. Loud music is tough but not torture; lack of sleep is tough, but not torture. Ahh, "But GM," I can hear you say, "what about beatings, what about abuse, what about ... ?" and I have to agree, those acts have absolutely no part in our custody of combatants, even illegal combatants who are outside of the Rules of Land Warfare as promulgated in the Geneva Conventions on Warfare!

  1. Having said that let's look at the charges against Rumsfeld: 1. Rumsfled as the top dog in the Department of Defense is responsible for the actions of those under him. Verdict: Yes, and No. Responsible as the ultimate person in charge? True. Responsible for the specific act of brutality committed by a soldier? Not true! Reason: As the Secretary of Defense, Rumsfeld has the legal and legitimate responsibility to engage our troops in warfare under the direction of Congress and the President but he cannot specifically oversee each act by each soldier in the entire chain of command. His charge is to find out what happened and begin the legal process against any soldier who violates the rules. That is quite different than what the left is asking for. Accountable? Yes! Directly responsible? No!
  2. Rumsfeld was confronted by a soldier in a Q&A session for sending that soldiers unit into combat with unarmored vehicles. Verdict: Not true! As the story developed, it turns out that more than 97% of the vehicles were armored and the rest were already scheduled. Glen Reynolds has a much more thourough posting here. That those making the original charge didn't follow up and continue to see what the real info was should not be a surprise to anyone. Also see the Power Line information here.
  3. The FBI complains in a story by the LATimes here that "inappropriate" techniques have been used in Iraq and Cuba including "...lighted cigarettes stuck in detainees' ears and Arab captives being humiliated with Israeli flags wrapped around them..." Now, lighted cigarettes stuck in the ear is torture, plain and simple! Even if the butt end was stuck in the ear with the "threat" of it burning down and burning the combatant it is torture, plain and simple indeed. But wrapping them in a Israeli Flag to "humiliate" them. Oh Please! Give me a break. I'm not going to get into "moral equivalence" type arguments, but my gosh, how tortured an argument against torture can you get? Actually, the whole LATimes article is a good read and it raises some legitimate points. But do we call for Rumsfeld to resign over it? Not yet methinks!

God Help Me! I Don't Want To Live Anymore: Suicide~The Savage God
Earlier this month (December 10th), Gary Webb committed suicide. Mr. Webb was the author of Dark Alliance a book about the connection between the Contra's and Drugs and the CIA. My friend Marc Cooper wrote extensively about Mr. Webb here, & here.

Suicide - the killing of one's self is a mental health issue stretching back through the millennia. Whether it be from Alexander falling on his sword, Socrates drinking hemlock or Mr. Webb, suicide hurts everyone it touches, from the victim to the victims loved ones.

The Center for Disease Control reports:

* Suicide took the lives of 30,622 people in 2001 (CDC 2004).
* Suicide rates are generally higher than the national average in the western states and lower in the eastern and midwestern states (CDC 1997).
* In 2002, 132,353 individuals were hospitalized following suicide attempts; 116,639 were treated in emergency departments and released (CDC 2004).
* In 2001, 55% of suicides were committed with a firearm (Anderson and Smith 2003).

The CDC goes on to say that women attempt suicide three times the rate of men and men complete suicide four times the rate of women. It is a grisly set of statistics, especially at this time of year when one would think that being with family, the giving and getting of expressions of love, sharing with others etc., would be a happy time for all.

And yet, and yet, this is not the case. No, is there trouble in the world, with war, famine, disease and sorrow. And for far too many, despondency.

Risk factors for suicide include the following:

  • Previous suicide attempt(s)History of mental disorders, particularly depression
  • History of alcohol and substance abuse
  • Family history of suicide
  • Family history of child maltreatment
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Impulsive or aggressive tendencies
  • Barriers to accessing mental health treatment
  • Loss (relational, social, work, or financial)
  • Physical illness
  • Easy access to lethal methods
  • Unwillingness to seek help because of the stigma attached to mental health and substance abuse disorders or suicidal thoughts
  • Cultural and religious beliefs—for instance, the belief that suicide is a noble resolution of a personal dilemma
  • Local epidemics of suicide
  • Isolation, a feeling of being cut off from other people

I know the feeling of despondency, of being cut off from others, of severe loss; and I know them far too intimately! In July, 1996 my first wife passed away from the complications of asthma. We were 15 days away from our 27th anniversary! As the family gathered around my daughter and me, I still felt isolated. When my wife's mother, brother and I went to our chuch to talk with the pastor about the memorial service my brother-in-law noted that my wife was no longer in pain, that we would soon enough be with her but we didn't want that now. I looked up at him with tears in my eyes and my heart breaking and said "I do." I meant that then, at that time in my life. I, to this day, don't know if I would have actually attempted suicide (obviously I didn't commit it); but I do know that if I had been crossing the street I wouldn't have hurried out of the way of a car speeding towards me, so great was my despondency. I survived that time, with the support and love of my friends and family, especially the love of my daughter Jennifer. I fell in love again (though I never thought I would) and re-married and am delightfully happy once again.

Suicide has been called the Savage God by A. Alvarez in his classic book, and part of my title comes from remembering reading that tome when I was in graduate school. In my 35 plus years of mental health work, I have dealt with the family survivors of suicide time and time again and it's never easy; on the therapist or on the family. The grief, the doubt and the pain go on and on in unremitting waves. Suicide is far too often not a well thought out action, but an action of desparation, of despondency of a belief that nothing will again be better. Gary Webb doubtlessly felt this way before shooting himself.

Suicide grows out of an irrational belief that nothing will improve - and no, I'm not talking about people with an incurable disease, with an immediate future of unremitting pain and ultimate death. I'm talking about people who in the depths of depression believe that nothing will improve. Nothing could be farther from the truth! While there is life, there is hope. Suicide dashes that hope for the victim and the surviving loved ones.

It is said that depression, like any mood is cyclical, that is that our moods go up and down in a normal fashion with a fairly predictable regularity. Clinical depression on the other hand is a gross exaggeration of this cycle. A psychiatrist friend of mine explained it once as waking up in the morning feeling lousy and down. Going to work someone notices and says "What's wrong?" to which you sigh and reply "I'm depressed!" The other person says "It's OK, things will get better" and sure enough, after a few days or a week or so it does. But depression, real depression is much more complex and much greater than just the "blues."

Depression is often mistakenly thought to be caused by one or more of the following:
  • Depression is the result of a medical condition involving an imbalance of hormones or neurotransmitters in the brain.
  • Depression is the result of "bad" thinking processes.
  • Depression is a result of significant psychological/physical trauma and it's aftermath.

The Depression Learning Path here has a terrific bit of information regarding depression. Read it all.

Depression is not the "cause" of suicide though, even if it is often directly and unavoidably linked to depression. I once had a patient who had lost her husband and two children in separate accidents a couple of years apart, lost her business and managed to cope with it all. She became depressed and had persistent thoughts of death and dying when her pet dog died. So, how did she cope with true tragedy but "fall apart" when a pet died? Perhaps it was the proverbial straw that broke the camels back. Perhaps it was the time of year, perhaps her pet's death occurred as she was starting to realize the extent of her previous losses. I don't know. I do know that with the help of a psychiatrist and counseling she was able to recover and become a fully functioning happy person again.

The loss of belief in a future, despondency too often leads to suicide. For the family of the suicide, the resulting guilt and belief that they could have prevented it is wide spread, almost universal. There are warning signs, but they are not always present, and often the person contemplating suicide goes to great lengths to keep anyone from realizing what is about to happen. SAVE (Suicide Awareness Voices of Education) has a great Question & Answer section on suicide, causes, prevention etc. I strongly, strongly, suggest a full reading.

Educate yourself about depression and suicide; the cost in lives ended, lives of survivers shattered and the cost in human suffering demands it. You may know someone who is contemplating suicide. If so, act, now, go to the internet and learn as much as you can and do something. Take a risk! Be proactive! Save someone you love, even if they get furious with you. You may not be ultimately successful, but you won't feel guilty if they eventually do take their lives.

UPDATE: From SAVE a bit of good news. President Bush signed the GarrettLeeSmith Bill.

President Bush signed into law a bill authorizing $82 million in grants aimed at preventing suicide among young people. The Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act is named for the son of Oregon Republican Sen. Gordon Smith, who championed the legislation as a tribute to his 21-year-old son, who committed suicide last year. The senator, his wife Sharon, daughter Brittany and son Morgan attended the signing ceremony at the White House.The law authorizes $82 million over three years to provide grants to states, Indian tribes, colleges and universities to develop youth suicide prevention and intervention programs. It emphasizes screening programs that identify mental illness in children as young as sixth-graders, and provides referrals for community-based treatment and training for child care professionals.

Suicide can often be prevented if we all make a significant effort.

UPDATE (8:45PM January 28, 2005): Welcome Instapundit Readers. Mr. Reynolds was gracious enough to link to my post. I hope you will stick around and look at some of my other posts. I tend to the right, but I'll call down anyone who needs it. Again, wellcome

Carnival of the Vanities # 117
Well now, even though there are not a lot of comments on my blog, I may have arrived. One of my spots got mentioned on Carnival of the Vanities.

All Your Base Are Belong To Us!
MoveOn MovesAgainst the DNC (news item); and in that light, I propose an alternate history:

2005 - It was a time of war, the empire known as the DNC fought bravely against the reactionary forces of the insurgency, but was more powerful than anyone had previously thought.
Captain: "What happen?"
Mechanic: "Somebody set up us the bomb."
Operator: "We get Signal."
Captain: "What?"
Operator: "Main screen turn on."
Captain: "It's you!"
Cats: "How are you gentlemen!!"
Cats: "All your base are belong to us."
Cats: "You are on the way to destruction."
Cats: "You have no chance to survive make your time!"

And so children, took over the DNC and the war for the hearts and minds of blue-staters entered a new and bloody phase. Cats, otherwise known as Dr. Howard Dean moved in to DNC HQ and routed the corporate stooges who had brought in the DLC in the guise of Democrats Lite and forced the evil ones out of the DNC. Powerful heads however, at the RNC knew that if the DNC were taken over by reactionaries at, then the long term prospects of the RNC would be enhanced.

Androids, in the form of McCain-Feingold, would intervene however and, realizing that their changes in the laws of physics and politics created the reactionary monster, plotted against The androids knew that if they could only make one further change, only one miniscule jot in the laws of physics and politics, might starve, and thus win for the DNC that which they could not win for themselves.

The RNC of course was somewhat dismayed, for they knew that their earlier plotting against the androids had been foolish, that acquiescing to the demands of the populace and allowing the Grand Poo-Bah Bush II, to endorse the changes in the laws of physics and politics and actually signing the endorsement had, in the end, played an important role in the formation of his second administration. Not knowing what to do, they further tinkered with the laws of physics and politics and created even more monsters. Thus children, was only the beginning, as more and more reactionaries at the DNC and later the RNC became more and more powerful, the populace was forgotten and we come to this stage of the equation. None of us have any rights any more. Now, go to sleep and realize that big brother will indeed be watching over us.

Moral of the story: Tinker with the laws of physics and politics often enough, and the monster you create will devour you. Tinker with what is essentially a first amendment right, and you know not what the laws of unexpected consequences will give birth to.

UPDATE (Dec/ 12. 2004): Some of you may be unfamiliar with the "All your base are blong to us" phenomenon. The original can be found here. It has been pronounced dead, but still survives. Kinda like MoveOn huh?

A Gift of Love for our Troops at Christmas
Lorie Byrd of PoliPundit passes on a suggestion from Hugh Hewitt that is just too good for me not to pass on. Folks, if you celebrate Christmas, Chanukkah, or Kwanza, this is an idea that is ripe for passing on to each and every person that you know.

Cut it, paste it, put it in an e-mail and get it around the world. While our troops are in the field or in the hospital, let's make sure that they can talk to their loved ones this Christmas Season.

"Finally, from a naval officer I respect a great deal, an e-mail on how to aid wounded troops in the two weeks left before Christmas:"

"Yellow ribbons tied around trees and red, white and blue stickers on the backs SUVs saying "Support our Troops" are things that make civilians feel good but do nothing for the men and women actually in uniform."

"So please consider the following:"

"The number ONE request at Walter Reed hospital is phone cards. The government doesn't pay long distance phone charges and these wounded soldiers are rationing their calls home."

"Many will be there throughout the holidays."

"Really support our troops --Send phone cards of any amount to:"

Medical Family Assistance Center

Walter Reed Medical Center

6900 Georgia Avenue,

NW Washington, DC 20307-5001

"They say they need an "endless" supply of these -- any amount even $5 is greatly appreciated."

"Walmart has good prices on AT&T cards, Sams Club is even better, if you are a member."

I am sure you would feel better about doing this, than to buy something for a third cousin, that would find it on the closet shelf six months later, and wonder where it came from."

"Please pass this portion on, copy and paste it into your e-mail."

And NOW for my own little tidbit: Write your Congressman and tell them to enter a bill for the government to pay for long distance phone calls home for any soldier wounded in a theater of war. The government can even buy them at Sams Club at maybe a bigger discount.

Spending The U.S. Into The Poorhouse

From The Stakeholder (the website/blog of Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Weblog) comes this tidbit of "then and now."


“I don’t like deficits, I don’t want deficits, and I won’t
pretend deficits don’t matter.” -Budget Committee Chairman Jim Nussle, CongressDaily, 3/12/03

“[Former New York Congressman] Jack Kemp worships at the altar of tax cuts. Jack has always said that deficits don’t matter. We think that deficits do matter.” -Majority Leader Tom DeLay, New York Times, 1997

“The Republican lockbox legislation locks away the entire Social Security surplus . . . Today, we are restoring Americans’ faith and confidence in the Social Security system. It’s a promise to current and future generations of retirees: Rest assured, your hard-earned money will be saved for you so that you can enjoy your well-deserved retirement.” -Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Congressional Record, 5/23/99

“This Congress will protect 100 percent of the Social Security and Medicare Trust Funds. Period. No speculation. No supposition. No projections.” -Budget Committee Chairman Jim Nussle, Press Release, 7/2/01

Now (the revolt):

"Republicans are in denial... they have been spending money like there is no tomorrow.” -Bruce Bartlett, former deputy assistant secretary for economic policy under President Ronald Reagan, Chicago Tribune, 03/09/04

“Enough deficit spending, my friends. Enough. We are mortgaging our children's futures. When does it stop? When does the Republican Party find its soul?” -Sen. John McCain, Congressional Record, 02/12/04

Dang it all, I hate it when liberal Democrats are right! And they are. Deficit spending is a major problem for the US. It would be for me and my family budget, for me and a company budget, many states forbid defict spending and yet, and yet, when offered the majority in congress by the American People, Republicans (both houses, don't get all uppity on me if you are a Democrat) have abandoned what they stood for for decades. And I don't mean just conservative Republicans, I mean all of them.

This is not something to sneeze at folks. Someday the bill will come due and someone (your children? grandchildren?) are going to fork over most of their pay checks to handle the cost of government.

I know, I know, you democrats out there are claiming Clinton eliminated the deficit but you know that that is done with smoke and mirrors. You can have a huge surplus if you take everything off budget such as Medicare entitlements.

The Democrats are not above blame either. For 40 years they preached deficits were not harmful, and now they gripe at the republicans for doing the same thing that they did. Of course, Democrats point to The Clinton “surplus” and say that we can do it again.

Democrats want to raise taxes, mostly on the rich. Noted economist Thomas Sowell who is also a Black Conservative, notes here (read the whole thing)

Congressman Patrick Kennedy, a Rhode Island Democrat, recently declared to fellow party members at a Washington night spot, "I don't need Bush's tax cut" and added that he had never worked a day in his life.

A number of other rich people have at various times likewise declared that they do not need what are called "tax cuts for the rich." But, whatever political points such rhetoric may score, it confuses issues that are long overdue to be clarified.

One of the most basic confusions is between income and wealth. You can have high income and low wealth or vice versa. We have all heard of athletes and entertainers who have earned millions and yet ended up broke. There are also people of relatively modest incomes who have saved and invested enough over the years to leave surprisingly large amounts of wealth to their heirs.

Income tax cuts apply to income, not wealth. So the fact that some rich people say that they do not need a tax cut means nothing because they are not getting a tax cut on their wealth, since their wealth is not being taxed anyway.

Looked at differently, high tax rates hit people who are currently earning high incomes -- usually late in life, after having worked their way up in their professions over a period of decades. Genuinely rich people who have never had to work a day in their lives -- people like Congressman Kennedy -- are unaffected by income taxes, except on what they are currently earning, which may be a tiny fraction of what they own.

In other words, soak-the-rich tax rates do not in fact soak the rich. They soak people who are currently earning the rewards of having contributed to the economy. High income taxes punish people for becoming prosperous, not for having been born rich.

Even estate taxes can be minimized by hiring ingenious lawyers and accountants. But people who have had to work all their lives may not be nearly as able to afford such expensive ingenuity. Someone who eventually works his way up to $100,000 a year will qualify as "rich" in liberal rhetoric but, by the time you reach that level, you may have a child in college and need to put some money aside for your retirement years. You are very unlikely to be able to afford a yacht.

The Democrats hammer “Tax Cuts for the Rich” but don’t tell you that there is a big difference between tax cuts and tax revenue. Tax revenue increased every year of the Reagan Administration as it did following the even bigger “tax cut” during the Kennedy Administration.

Back to the topic at hand which is not taxing, but spending. The Republicans bellowed for years for a reduction in spending as a method of lowering the deficit while at the same time the Democrats wanted to raise taxes. Now that the Republicans are in charge of both houses, you’d think that they would be cutting spending left and right. And you’d be wrong. Pork Barrel spending is at an all time high with tax dollars going to the most irrational boondoggles. It’s sickening to watch this process.

I float a modest proposal.

1. Cut Taxes on Corporations, because when you increase corporate taxes, the corporations only pass along those taxes to the consumers who do not need any more outgo of their own pocketbooks.

2. Tax Wealth, not Income. I would be willing to bet that the Soros and Kennedy types would squeal like stuck pigs then.

3. Cut the tax rate on income to a flat tax, but tax all personal income. For those below an agreed on poverty level will get a refund.

4. Abolish federal withholding. When each taxpayer has to make a monthly “tax deposit” to cover their income taxes, the outcry will go up demanding fiscal responsibility.

5. Abolish deficit spending and any congressional trick used to pass a spending resolution without having to do the work necessary for a real budget, tie specific deficit authorizations to national emergencies such as natural disasters (Florida Hurricanes, Terrorist Attacks, War, etc., etc.)

6. Abolish all federal spending on anything that is not in the national interest (this alone would eliminate 90% of the pork methinks, though I’m not sure of that).

7. Set time limits on entitlements and require a “sunset review” one year before the limit arrives. Only if the entitlement is truly needed may it be continued.

There are probably other things that could be done also, but this might be worth discussing.

I have one other suggestion; the organization of a national body called “Vote The Bastards Out.” Those joining would agree to vote for the member of the opposite party from the one currently holding office for each of the next 4 congressional elections, the next 2 Senate elections and the next two presidential elections. When the politicos realize that they have to then EARN our vote, maybe they would begin to work for America, not just their party or themselves.

UPDATE: Reader James R. MacLean has an interesting comment (third one from the top) with a link. Take a good look at the link noted here (the link in the comments section may or may not work). Now, Mr. MacLean states that Thomas Sowell is wrong and that increases after 83 are because we were coming out of a recession. Further that ascribing the issue to a political party is "noise." He may be right, but he may be wrong also. I'm not an economist. If there is an economist out there that can support or refute Sowell or Mr. MacLean I'd be open to hearing from you. At any rate, if I wasn't clear, the point of the posting is that I think we are spending entirely too much and need to take a good look at revenue vs. expendatures. There are lots of folk that think like me (and lots that don't as well). Thanks for your comment Mr. MacLean, hope you will come back more often.
Marc Cooper writes on the death of Progressivism
Marc Cooper has an excellent post on the dearth of rational response by a many Democrats/liberals/leftists/progressives to the recent election.

Usually, if you can't find me posting here you can find me commenting in Marc's excellent Blog. Marc is a liberal/progressive in the classical sense of the word and is damn worried about the state of the Democratic Party and their mental masturbation regarding the loss of the last election.

He links to The Nation in a forum in which some 17 authors post a brief (sometimes far too brief - those make sense) and sometimes brief (and still too damn long - the ones that are laughable) discussion of what went wrong and what can be done about it.

I took the time to read each of those articles and some made me think, but too many of them made me wince. Do yourself a favor and read all of them too. The Democratic Party seems hopelessly mired in a psychosis (temporary?) with paranoid ramblings regarding how those evil republicans stole again the election. Either that, or they ramble about the need to talk more about religion. That is part of the problem I think; too many want to talk about religion, not enough want to express sincere religious beliefs and scoff at those who do.

That is just one part of the problem however. In other posts, here, and here and here I talk about some of the issues. Michael Totten has a great compendium also here

As much as I hate to say it however, Marc says it better than I could hope to. Perhaps because he is a real journalist whereas I am just learning this trade. Take the following:

The real issue is that the agenda of "U.S. progressives" is really irrelevant if they continue to be an irrelevant political force. And right now, today, they are. As I wrote in an earlier column, when "progessives" has as their populist face two clowns like M. Moore and Al Franken-- then no wonder their deeper politics fails to resonate. Who are the great populist progressive rabble rouser pols of our time who can walk into a working-class venue anywhere from Detroit to Decatur to Mobile and get a standing ovations? Until you can name that person, American "progressivism" is merely a fantasy that exists only in the pages of The Nation and inside the class rooms of various Critical Studies departments.

Marc is absolutely correct, the nuts like Moore and Franken have hijacked the progressive side of politics and traded heart-felt (though I believe mistaken) positions for quick laughs, scurrilous lies and mean-spirited crap disguised as reasonable positions.

In the "comments" section of Marc's posting, you will find thoughtful responses by Michael J. Totten, by John Moore by a very thoughtful Frydek-Mistek from Czechoslovakia and by Josh Legere. And even a few bombs thrown by me! (Warning! Not all the comments are thoughtful or even useful.)

Now, you may ask why I, a conservative gives a hoot about the Democratic Party and Progressives in particular and any liberal/leftist position in general? Well, the answer is easy; a viable two party (or more) system is vital to the well being of this country. We have seen what happens when a single party holds power for too long, you get tin pots like Johnson, boondoggles like Medicare that may well end up bankrupting the country unless radically reformed, and other gosh awful results - crooks like Nixon as a response to the Johnson mismanagement of the Viet Nam war.

We are now in a position of Republican supremacy, and that worries me a bit. Oh, not that the radical lefties like Kennedy and Pelosi act like they have something stuck in their crop, but because when a single party dominates, only one set of ideas get promulgated. And, with a world wide war on Islamo-Fascism, that can be a disaster.

Be of good cheer however, as an optimist, I believe that eventually the Democrats will reject the Moore's and the Frankin's and get back to the concept of governance. When they do, we will all be better off.

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