Archive for September 27, 2008

Signs of Liberty? Not at an Obama Rally!


NOT ALL COUNTRIES guarantee their citizens the right to virtually unbridled freedom of speech. The United States does. Would someone please tell the campaign of Sen. Barack Obama? And the dozing guardians of liberty at the University of Mary Washington?

Mr. Obama, the Democratic nominee for president, is scheduled to speak at a rally at the university today. The public is invited to this forum, on property it, the public, owns. However, signs and banners will not be allowed, according to the organizers and compliant campus officials. Suddenly, UMW is a First Amendment-Free, or at least a First Amendment-Crippled, Zone, subject to the self-serving preferences of politicos. Why does an Obama rally–or a McCain rally or a Nader rally–justify taking a little off the top of Americans’ most fundamental rights?

A UMW spokeswoman says that the Obama campaign required the sign-and-banner ban. That campaign tells us that the ban is for “security” reasons. But a spokesman for the U.S. Secret Service, responsible for protecting presidential candidates, says that the service has no objection to signs at rallies, provided that no “part of the sign could be used as a weapon”–e.g., a heavy metal pole or a sharpened stick. Finally, the McCain campaign tells us, “We encourage people to make signs at our events.”

Regarding today’s event, one would expect better from a campaign bearing the name of a former professor of constitutional law. (See Ambrose Bierce’s definition of a lawyer: “one skilled in circumventing the law.”) And one would expect much better from a university that, in pursuit of a day of celebrity, a boost in prestige, and profits from its book store’s planned commemorative Obama T-shirts (now scotched), shaves away an American liberty purchased by men who turned white snow red and dry dirt wet with their sacrificial blood. This is a lot to swap for a mess of pottage. Remarks the Rutherford Institute’s John Whitehead, who has turpentined the Bush administration’s civil-rights record, “The Secret Service has a better free-speech viewpoint than the college.”

The First Amendment guarantees the freedoms of religion, speech, the press, peaceable assembly, petition of the government. Will one who aspires to the title Defender of the Constitution begin inhibiting these First Freedoms even before he is in office–at a public university? Source: The Free Lance-Star

Hat tip Robert D.

Are Obama supporters a bunch of thugs that can’t be trusted not to whack each other with signs?

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The Invisible Cat

About 3 years ago, Don Bruce (formerly Don Juan) was involved in some violent altercations over ownership of one of the barns. Don Bruce is an older-type altered male, and he was getting the worst of the deal. I convinced him that spending the night on the screened porch wasn’t a bad deal at all. He was so convinced that he stayed up there willingly, abandoning ownership of the barn to be closer to me. Or so I deluded myself.

I was not Don Bruce’s human at all. Don Bruce had long since laid claim to my son, who he followed home one day when son was about 13 years old. Son now has his own place but, indeed, still has some things out in that barn that Don Bruce guarded for such a long time.

A couple of nights ago, I heard cat curses being hurled on my back porch. I flicked on the light and stepped out. Nobody there but Don Bruce and Princess Di, aka momma kitty, named because of her imperious manner. How odd. Perhaps I was hearing things.

Before dawn the next morning, I was carrying feed out to the stable and heard some scrabbling outside the barn. I shone the flashlight toward the noise and caught the interloper in the act of hurriedly climbing back into the second story of the barn. He’s apparently been squatting out there unnoticed by us for the past 3 years.

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Car Makers in the Credit Coal Mine?

From Forbes:

Detroit – If you want to know what impact the banking crisis is having on the overall American economy, look no further than automakers, who say they are facing “horrific” sales this month because customers can’t get credit–or are afraid to buy amid the uncertainty.

“It can be nothing but a disaster for consumer confidence when you’re talking about bank failures,” frets Earl Hesterberg, chief executive of Houston-based Group One Automotive, a large, publicly traded dealer group. “People are worried about where their bank deposits and CDs are. We’ve seen traffic suffer accordingly.”

Carmakers were already facing a tough year, amid a difficult housing market, higher gas prices and escalating commodity costs. But Wall Street’s high-profile collapse, and the related tightening of credit for all businesses, has made a difficult situation even worse–and stirred concern about whether carmakers have enough cash to weather the downturn.

Retail car sales were down 34% through the first three weeks of September, compared with the same period a year ago, and analysts are now lowering their forecasts based on the added factor of credit gridlock. On Wednesday, J.D. Power & Associates lowered its September sales forecast to an annualized rate of 12.6 million units, down 400,000 vehicles from what it had been predicting only a couple of weeks ago. Read the rest of the sad story here.

A lot of industries are going to be ruined through no fault of their own. Even the deepest pockets aren’t going to be able to hold out for very long.

The auto makers support auto workers, dealers, salesmen, mechanics, paint companies, parts makers, steel manufacturers, tire manufacturers….and that’s just a small part of whom the House and Senate are trying to/have screwed over with their failure to fix Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac years ago.

Many of them are unionized. And most of them are going to vote for the very people that proclaim to be for the worker who are trying to make fuel for automobiles so expensive that people cannot afford to drive anything but smallish imports. The same party that claims to support the American worker but blocks deporting illegals that will work for a third of their wages.

Oh, well, don’t forget the coal miners. Obama and company want to eliminate their jobs entirely. Perhaps they can learn to erect windmills.

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Fortis About to Fail?

See The Daily Standard.

Wow. I wish that we had some cash reserves buried out underneath the pecan tree in a mason jar but, sadly, we do not.

Update: I was just up at the feed store discussing Fortis with one of the employees. She told me that she and her husband had been wondering whether they might not be better off taking their money out of the bank and paying by cash and money order. When main street America starts discussing this, you know people have lost faith in the ability (or integrity) of the House and Senate to fix the problem and in the solvency of banks.

I hope she doesn’t bank at Wachovia.

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Florida Constitutional Amendments: What You Need to Know

Source: Florida Trend Election 2008.

Amendment 1
Repeal of Alien Land Law

Sponsor: State Sen. Steve Geller (D) of Hallandale Beach and other lawmakers

Title: Relating to Property Rights/Ineligible Aliens

What it does: Deletes an outdated provision of the state Constitution that authorizes the Legislature to regulate the property rights of “ineligible aliens.” Read the background here.

Sounds like a good regulation to me. We don’t want any ineligible aliens settling in and making crop circles and killing livestock.

Amendment 2
Gay Marriage Ban

Sponsor: John Stemberger, chairman of Florida4Marriage.org (now called Yes2Marriage.org)

Title: Florida Marriage Protection Amendment

What it does: Defines marriage as the legal union of only “one man and one woman as husband and wife.” If passed, it would ban gay marriage and civil unions and could endanger publicly recognized domestic partnerships if they are deemed to be “substantially equivalent” to marriage. Miami Beach, Gainesville, West Palm Beach, Key West as well as Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties all have domestic partner registries. Read the background here.

Well, I’m going to get all traditionalist on this one.

Amendment 3
Hurricane and Energy Tax Break

Sponsor: Florida Taxation and Budget Reform Commission)

Title: Changes and Improvement Not Affecting the Assessed Value of Residential Real Property

What it does: Provides homeowners with a small property tax reduction when they make storm-hardening improvements such as adding hurricane shutters and hurricane-resistant shingles, doors and windows. It would also exempt renewable energy source devices like solar water heating systems. The property tax reduction would apply to rental apartments, second homes or vacation homes as well as homesteads. Read the background here.

The state of Florida wants to give me a tax break to do something that is in my financial best interest anyway? Say WHAT? How about a tax break if I get my house treated for termites, or if I decide NOT to poke out my eye with a pointy stick? And why the hell would something like this belong in the Florida constitution?

Amendment 4
Conservation Land Tax Break

Sponsor: Florida Taxation and Budget Reform Commission)

Title: Property Tax Exemption of Perpetually Conserved Land; Classification and Assessment of Land Used for Conservation

What it does: This amendment would do two things: It would create a complete property tax exemption for conservation easements — land that a property owner agrees to maintain in its current state and not develop; second, it allows the Legislature to create a new classification of “conservation” land that would qualify for a tax reduction much in the same way the state provides “greenbelt” tax breaks to agricultural landowners. Read the background here.

Hmmmm. I can see where this might belong in the constitution. I haven’t made up my mind whether to vote for or against yet.

Amendment 6
Working Waterfront Tax Break

Sponsor: Florida Taxation and Budget Reform Commission)

Title: Assessment of Working Waterfront Property Based Upon Current Use

What it does: Provides a tax break for marinas, boat yards, commercial fishing facilities and other “working waterfront” businesses by assessing their property according to its current use, rather than by “highest and best,” or potential, use. Read the background here.

This is one that I strongly back. I hate to see small businesses taxed out of their property because tax assessors think that high rise condominiums would be the “highest and best use” of the property. My only quibble is that it shouldn’t be limited to waterfront property but all property should be taxed on what is there, not what would make the most money for the local government there.

Amendment 8
New Sales Tax for Community College Districts

Sponsor: Florida Taxation and Budget Reform Commission)

Title: Local Option Community College Funding

What it does: Voters in a county could choose to impose a local option sales tax to supplement community college funding. Any taxes approved by the counties would sunset after five years but could be reauthorized by the voters. Read the background here.

Voters should be able to tax themselves for any reason they so choose. I don’t think it requires a constitutional amendment, however, just for community colleges.

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Florida Times Union to Offer Voluntary Buyouts

Voluntary employee buyouts could be proposed to workers in the production departments at The Florida Times-Union.

The buyouts, which would pay employees who voluntarily resign, is just one of the changes being considered by the parent company of the Jacksonville daily newspaper, Morris Communications Company LLC, said Publisher Jim Currow.

“We’re literally looking at everything,” Currow said. “ There’s nothing that’s not on the table.”

Like many large metropolitan daily newspaper companies around the nation, revenue at the Morris Communications has been on a downward slide for some time. The company’s net income was down 59 percent to $2 million in the quarter ending June 30 from $4.9 million during the same period last year, according to a quarterly report filed with the SEC.

“Times are tough right now,” Currow said, adding that the dropping real estate market and increasing unemployment fueled the company’s own financial issues.

But the bottom line for Morris Communications, as at other newspapers, is that the effects of the economic downturn have take a toll on advertising revenue.

Morris Communications’ Florida newspapers and publications, which accounted for 35.6 percent of its total advertising revenue, contributed 64.1 percent of its entire net decline in advertising revenue in the first half of 2008.

In the past year the Augusta, Ga.-based company has started contracting out much of the Times-Union’s advertising lay out to a company in Manila, and is now starting to do the same for some of the advertising at its Savannah and Augusta newspapers. And two months ago, Morris Communications joined a growing number of large dailies by outsourcing its fleet of delivery trucks to Penske Corp. Although he didn’t know exactly how many, Currow said Penske hired many of Morris Communications’ drivers.

Some employees have been laid off. In the first half of 2008, Jacksonville eliminated 124 employees, with a total annual salary and wage savings of about $2.5 million. Severance costs totaled $600,000 during the same period, most of which came from outsourcing ad production and a transfer of some other departments to shared services in Augusta.

The company is looking at other avenues to save money, Currow said, including finding smaller spaces to house the Nassau County and Clay County bureaus of the Times-Union. Source: Jacksonville Business Journal.

Seems to me that firing employees and outsourcing their jobs aren’t exactly the way to ensure that there’s a vibrant economy in which people can afford to buy newspapers, but that’s just me.

My disagreement with the Times-Union started several years ago. I had been a long-term subscriber when I started getting multiple telemarketing calls at the office PER DAY inviting me to subscribe to the Times-Union.

“Look, I’m already subscribed to the Times-Union. I’ve been getting the paper for 20 freaking years. This is the THIRD TIME TODAY you people have called me. You have been calling me several times per day for the past several weeks and each time when I complain, you say that my name will be taken off the list. IT HAS NEVER BEEN TAKEN OFF THE LIST! If I get one more call, I am cancelling my subscription.” I was assured that my name would be taken off the list.

Of course, the people doing the telemarketing could care less whether or not I cancelled my subscription. Their job was to call numbers. The next day I got another call, and cancelled my subscription.

If I had been ecstatically happy with the Florida Times-Union perhaps I wouldn’t have cancelled, but there had been an intellectual parting of the ways between us some time ago. I found that I got better local business news from The Wall Street Journal, tiny little area newspapers, and specialty publications. I felt that their political news was biased and certainly didn’t reflect my experiences.

Another factor was that I was increasingly dissatisfied with the shallowness of the reporting. It was as though those that were writing didn’t have any knowledge whatsoever about what they were writing about. I expect that a person who is a business writer has a working knowledge about economics and the free enterprise system, perhaps having spent 20 years in the business trenches, so to speak. I expect that somebody that writes about environmental issues also knows whether or not the proposed solutions are workable. Unfortunately, my expectations may have been too high.

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Missouri Governor Matt Blunt’s Statement on Obama’s Attempt to Use Legal Action to Silence Critics

JEFFERSON CITY - Gov. Matt Blunt today issued the following statement on news reports that have exposed plans by U.S. Senator Barack Obama to use Missouri law enforcement to threaten and intimidate his critics.

“St. Louis County Circuit Attorney Bob McCulloch, St. Louis City Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce, Jefferson County Sheriff Glenn Boyer, and Obama and the leader of his Missouri campaign Senator Claire McCaskill have attached the stench of police state tactics to the Obama-Biden campaign.

“What Senator Obama and his helpers are doing is scandalous beyond words, the party that claims to be the party of Thomas Jefferson is abusing the justice system and offices of public trust to silence political criticism with threats of prosecution and criminal punishment.

“This abuse of the law for intimidation insults the most sacred principles and ideals of Jefferson. I can think of nothing more offensive to Jefferson’s thinking than using the power of the state to deprive Americans of their civil rights. The only conceivable purpose of Messrs. McCulloch, Obama and the others is to frighten people away from expressing themselves, to chill free and open debate, to suppress support and donations to conservative organizations targeted by this anti-civil rights, to strangle criticism of Mr. Obama, to suppress ads about his support of higher taxes, and to choke out criticism on television, radio, the Internet, blogs, e-mail and daily conversation about the election.

“Barack Obama needs to grow up. Leftist blogs and others in the press constantly say false things about me and my family. Usually, we ignore false and scurrilous accusations because the purveyors have no credibility. When necessary, we refute them. Enlisting Missouri law enforcement to intimidate people and kill free debate is reminiscent of the Sedition Acts – not a free society.”

The more I find out about this man, the less I like him.

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Burning Down the House: What Caused Our Economic Crisis?

Youtube does not want you know who is responsible for the financial debacle. They prefer you to remain ignorant about the party of financial irresponsibility. We’ll see how long this one stays up.

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RIP Paul Newman, a Man Who Made a Difference in the Life of Kids

WESTPORT, Conn., Sept 27, 2008 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ — Remembering the life and legacy of Paul Newman, Newman’s Own Foundation has issued a statement. The statement, from Vice-Chairman Robert Forrester, follows:

“Paul Newman’s craft was acting. His passion was racing. His love was his family and friends. And his heart and soul were dedicated to helping make the world a better place for all.
“Paul had an abiding belief in the role that luck plays in one’s life, and its randomness. He was quick to acknowledge the good fortune he had in his own life, beginning with being born in America, and was acutely aware of how unlucky so many others were. True to his character, he quietly devoted himself to helping offset this imbalance.

“An exceptional example is the legacy of Newman’s Own. What started as something of a joke in the basement of his home, turned into a highly-respected, multi-million dollar a year food company. And true to form, he shared this good fortune by donating all the profits and royalties he earned to thousands of charities around the world, a total which now exceeds $250 million.

“While his philanthropic interests and donations were wide-ranging, he was especially committed to the thousands of children with life-threatening conditions served by the Hole in the Wall Camps, which he helped start over 20 years ago. He saw the Camps as places where kids could escape the fear, pain and isolation of their conditions, kick back, and raise a little hell. Today, there are 11 Camps around the world, with additional programs in Africa and Vietnam. Through the Camps, well over 135,000 children have had the chance to experience what childhood was meant to be.

In Paul’s words: “I wanted to acknowledge luck; the chance and benevolence of it in my life, and the brutality of it in the lives of others, who might not be allowed the good fortune of a lifetime to correct it.”

“Paul took advantage of what life offered him, and while personally reluctant to acknowledge that he was doing anything special, he forever changed the lives of many with his generosity, humor, and humanness. His legacy lives on in the charities he supported and the Hole in the Wall Camps, for which he cared so much.

“We will miss our friend Paul Newman, but are lucky ourselves to have known such a remarkable person.”

From the Wall Street Journal MarketWatch.

If you wish to make a contribution as a gesture of respect for Paul Newman’s life and work, here’s the address of The Hole In The Wall Gang Camp.

Have you ever noticed that Hollywood has gone from people with style, grace and class to a bunch of trashy drug addicts? I prefer the old movies from the 1940s, and I’m not the only one.

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Re-writing the Nebraskan Safe Haven Law

OMAHA, Neb. — When Nebraska lawmakers passed a unique “safe-haven” law that allowed parents to abandon children as old as 18, they never seriously thought such dropoffs would become common.

But their worst fears have come true: At least 16 children, some of them teenagers, have been abandoned since the law took effect in July. Now elected officials are considering revising the law, and at least one anguished parent said he only surrendered his kids because he felt he had no choice.

“If we see another family being left off, then we’re going to have to do something immediately,” said state Sen. Arnie Stuthman, who introduced legislation that was the basis for the law.

Stuthman said lawmakers need to set a maximum age for children who can be handed over to the state, and he’s not sure whether it can wait until the Legislature reconvenes in January. Read the rest at FoxNews.com.

The Nebraskan lawmakers obviously think that the children are being abandoned because of the law. I disagree. The children would be abandoned anyway. This just gave desperate parent(s) a safe place to leave the children.

If you want to know the size of the problem of neglected and/or abandoned children in your area, ask the local school teachers and principals. They are the ones that know that the smile, kind words, and a hug for the little ones at school is the only positive contact that a child may get from adults the entire day.

If you have a child in middle or high school, you may have already had your child bring home a classmate because “they don’t have any place else to go”. My son brought several kids home in that situation. One lived with us for several years and is still in close contact. Our neighbors were shocked when they took their son to visit a friend, and the boy was living in an old vehicle in the yard. His mother was unable to care for him, and the relative that had been awarded custody of the boy wouldn’t allow him to live in the house. They took him home with them and made him a part of the family, although no official guardianship was ever awarded. The family was afraid that if it went to court, who knew what sort of situation the boy would be sent to live in the next time.

Sadly, I doubt that our experiences with abandoned children were unique. I bet they’re being repeated in neighborhoods across America.

To end on a more upbeat note, SwampMan had one of the boys that made their way through his class in high school drop by the classroom to tell him that he had taken the test and been informed that he could enter the Air Force upon his graduation from high school. “I just wanted to tell you, because you’re the closest thing to a father that I’ve ever had.”

It may not take much to make a difference in the life of a child. Just letting them know that somebody cares about what happens to them may be all that it takes.

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