Archive for October, 2009

“Sacrifice, not service!”

Monday, October 26th, 2009

On Line Edition

# 4 – “Sacrifice, not service!”
Week of October 26, 2009

I cannot understand the logic of designating September 11th of every year as simply a day of “service”. If we are to set aside that sad date on our calendars, we should consider other, more rational options.

I suggest the following options to those who wish to change this historic holiday to a day to serve others. Tender these suggestions to those who must have forgotten the thousands of innocent men, women and children who were senselessly murdered on September 11, 2001.

Option # 1: Support

Ask Americans to support law enforcement and fire departments. It is a travesty that we pay the very people who are most critical to our survival in an emergency so little. In a time when athletes pull down salaries rivaling payrolls of businesses employing hundreds, the brave men and women who put their lives on the line to save ours often must have a second job or have a working spouse to take care of their families and put a little away for their old age. Support is definitely a good choice.

Option # 2: Safeguard

More than ever, we need to adopt an attitude of continual vigilance. I worry when our intelligence services personnel are threatened with criminal prosecution for having protected us so brilliantly for the past eight years. It is not an accident that the forces allied against us have failed to pull off another heinous attack. The idea that our “values” would hamper us from using all available resources to head off another 9/11 is ridiculous. If you were to check into history, President Abraham Lincoln abandoned the writ of habeas corpus during the Civil War. I suppose these suit-happy chaps would have served Honest Abe with a subpoena, too. Safeguard is a great choice!

Option # 3: Speak Out

When did we get to the point that doing what is right was relegated to the realm of so-called “political correctness”? If you see something suspicious or hear something threatening, report it immediately. Your keen observation could be critical. Don’t delude yourself into believing that we are too remote or rural to be at risk. What better way to terrorize America than to set in motion a series of simultaneous attacks on small towns across mid-America?
Speak out.

Option # 4: Show Strength

America needs to signal that she will not tolerate any group or any nation bent on destroying her. Some world leaders openly express that wish. It is up to us to encourage our Congress to achieve peace through strength. Maybe we have forgotten that all-important “big stick”. Be strong.

Option # 5: Substantiate

Do not accept anything you hear or read on its face. Check it out. Go for the facts. Confirm the information. Don’t be afraid to confront the person or organization responsible for false or misleading information. In the words of Ronald Wilson Reagan, “Trust, but verify.”

It is right to defend America. War isn’t pretty. People die. Often, innocent people die. Ridding the planet of Hitler, Nazism and Fascism cost millions their lives. The unspeakable attacks of 9/11are mere samples of what the world will suffer at the hands of radically militant Islam. Ruthless and determined, these enemies remain relentless. They are patient. As Americans, we are easily angered, but complacent over time. The terrorists count on that. Don’t be led astray by baseless threats or assumed safeguards. Substantiate!

Option # 6: Stand

Stand for your beliefs. Do not let anyone dilute your core values or your allegiance and love for America. Patriotism is not a dirty word. You take for granted every day a lifestyle that is the envy of countries around the world. Be firm in your stance. Verbalize your love and respect for your country. If you disagree with your elected officials, let them know. Don’t sit at the kitchen table and complain. Write, e-mail or call them. Be heard. Don’t be passive and assume that everything will work out for the best. Without voter input, elected officials are left to their own decisions, and those decisions could be diametrically opposed to the majority of their constituents — if they are silent. Stand for what you believe.

Option # 7: Savor

Savor your blessings as an American. Never take for granted the fact that you are free. It could disappear if we neglect to any threat to our freedom
— whether from within or without.

While each of these options is credible on its own, the best strategy is to combine them all. Don’t be goaded into accepting any commemoration of 9/11 that ignores the fact that thousands died and ARE dying daily. These selfless men and women fight and die to protect you and your family and spread freedom around the globe to insure that others breathe and live free.
Don’t be a bystander. Get in the game. The stakes are too high if you sit on the sidelines. This is every American’s fight. It is YOUR fight.

– “The Way it Was…”

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009


# 3 – “The way it was…”

Mid-October found me motoring down scenic US 52 to a speech at a festive Franklin County gathering in charming Brookville. Along the way, Mother Nature displayed a virtual greeting card of vistas painted in soft hues of brown, gold, and orange. Occasionally, a bright crimson tree popped up — a delightful surprise in a pleasant, but predictable woodland palette.

Passing through every small hamlet along the road was thought provoking, but never so much so as when I drove through New Salem. On the east side of the road stood a solid building. One story high, its architecture spoke volumes. Heavy limestone and pale brown brick had stood the test of time and whispered of the days when local businesses thrived — unthreatened by the huge enterprises seen today.

Mentally, I pictured early automobiles parked in front. Passengers alit and drew back the heavy front door only to disappear inside with the observer left to imagine what happened next. No doubt, management serviced patrons that varied in background, occupation, and social station.

Theirs was, indeed, a valuable relationship. Similar ones are rare today. In fact, I wonder — if pressed — if I could name one with which I am familiar. You’re probably wondering what kind of a business this was. I’ll get to that… Patience, please?

It has been at least two years since I focused on what I truly believe to be the truly endangered species. Of course, I’m speaking of small businesspeople. Hardy souls who worked very hard to build their businesses and took such personal pride in accomplishment are disappearing with every passing day.

The pleasure of doing business with an owner and staff who know you by name is — in most cases — doomed to be nostalgic. It should be a fact of life today, but it is not. When you consider all the financial troubles facing America, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that the problem roots in not that we still do business, but HOW we do business.

Today, countless entities still offer the services that beckoned people to that little brick building. Folks still walk in and sit down across the desk from the person in charge. The difference is that today’s expectations are low and results are abysmal. The security borne of successful transactions in that little building built confidence in families and extolled thrift. Even more important was the fact that parents, living by example, not only passed on solid values of hard work, honesty, but also reinforced the importance of fulfilling obligations.

Oh, would that it were true today! Yes, the little brick building encouraged folks to do the right thing. It instilled in them immeasurable self-respect and personal pride.

Honesty and accomplishment are values worth being chiseled in stone, and it didn’t escape me that is precisely how the little building proudly displayed its name to all passersby — chiseled in stone: NEW SALEM BANK.

Yes, things were far different when small local banks held sway over home and farm loans. Once upon a time, people saved their money and small banks helped them buy land or a home, start a business, or simply live out a dream that required more money than they could scrape together on their own.

The scenario was predicable for generations. A borrower needed about 20% down to secure a loan. A good job and a solid credit rating were important, but, undoubtedly, there were exceptions. Credibility counted for something.
I imagine that people who had experienced “money problems” did receive loans when a bank official recognized their personal mettle and merit.

One serious look at the “no money down, no interest, no payments for a set period of time” loans that spawned the financial morass that spiraled out of control this year makes someone who understands economics cringe.

What responsible bank loan officer would devise such a system? Probably very few…. However, government pressure and a social bent that people had a “right” to home ownership relegated these loans were to the equivalent of throwing gasoline to an already burning fire. Whoosh!

A small banker would never have considered loaning money without solid collateral, but the world of the small banks ceased with deregulation and buy outs by bigger banks.

Perhaps if we had failed to allow bank mergers, this would never have happened. I remember when women once “bundled” their babies — tucking them in tightly so that they didn’t roll around in a crib or cradle. How appropriate that “bundling” was the term used to package high-risk loans and sell them to larger banks. Like the baby in a bundle, banks that bought these loans found little room to move.

Face to face banking always works, but when large banks — virtually salivating at the prospect of quick profits “buy up” paper from smaller banks, well, you get the picture….

Balloon payments come due. Homeowners default on mortgages. Banks foreclose. Cash flow evaporates. Banks fail — and along with them — America fails to live up to the work ethic that built her economy. Oh, for the days when you had to “face up” to your ability and succeed only to the degree that you were able.

Once upon a time, that wasn’t just a pipe dream. It was — as the title implies — the way it was…. Think about it.

Looking out…

Monday, October 19th, 2009

“Looking out…”

There’s something very cathartic about washing windows. You begin with a view that’s not too clear, a condition that changes with some elbow grease. You see things more clearly through a clean window. If we see our personal environment better through a clean window, then what of the world’s window on America?

A view of America is not hard to put into words. It is, quite simply, freedom for all. Not a bad description, is it? The caveat here is that freedom is NOT free. America — through the blood and sacrifice of her brave fighting men and women — has freed more people from tyranny and oppression than any other nation on the globe. Peace is not achieved passively, but by constant vigilance and defense.

Recently, with the unexpected awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to our president, some commentators have analogized that the award has lost its true status and become simply a rubber stamp to European thinking. Yet, there is — as Paul Harvey would have quipped — the rest of the story.

How old is this prize and what is its genesis? The Nobel Foundation states that since 1901, the prize has honored men and women from all corners of the globe for outstanding achievements in physics, chemistry, medicine, literature, and for work in peace. The foundations for the prize were laid in 1895 when a famous Swedish scientist wrote his last will and testament, leaving much of his wealth to the establishment of the prize. For those of you who do not know his identity, he invented dynamite.

By the time Alfred Nobel was 17 years old, he had mastered Swedish, Russian, French, English and German. The son of a very successful Russian mechanical engineer who devised naval mines for the Tsar and his generals, Alfred not only loved English literature and poetry, but he also possessed curiosity about chemistry and physics. Later, inspired by the Frenchman who invented nitroglycerine, young Alfred mused about how to use the volatile chemical in construction. In the wake of his father’s mid-1800s bankruptcy, Alfred and brother Emil managed to salvage the remains of their father’s business and begin an oil business in southern Russia.

In 1863, the duo returned home to Sweden rich men. Alfred began experimenting on how to use nitroglycerine as a practical tool in construction. Safety was the prime issue for Alfred and, to his great anguish, both his brother Emil and several other workers died in early explosions. After that, Stockholm banned any further experiments within the city. Working elsewhere, Alfred came up with the idea to make the product into paste and form it into rods sized to insert into conventional drilling holes. At last, he achieved his dream — a product that would change history. Dynamite drastically cut the time-consuming work on canals, in tunnels, and any job requiring rock blasting.

According to the Nobel website, Alfred Nobel died in San Remo, Italy, on December 10, 1896. The contents of his will came as a surprise. His fortune was to be used for Prizes in Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine, Literature and Peace.

The executors of Nobel’s will, two young engineers named Ragnar Sohlman and Rudolf Lilljequist set about forming the Nobel Foundation to take care of the financial assets and to coordinate the work of the Prize-Awarding Institutions. This didn’t come easy, because relatives contested the will.

However, understand that the Peace Prize is not awarded by the same kind of committees that award the other prizes. Instead, it is made up of five members of the current ruling Swedish political party. This accounts for its awarding to the likes of Yassar Arafat, who has more Jewish blood on his hands than most of us can comprehend.

Some claim that Nobel sought to assuage his guilt for all the deaths caused by his invention when used in warfare, but there is no clear evidence of him ever have made such a statement and it may be more assumption than fact. His reasoning and inspiration were lost with his last breath, so we will never know precisely why he left his estate as he did. Yet, questions still haunt researchers.

Did Nobel intend for the prize to be awarded for deeds or rhetoric? For deeds or intentions? A question without any clear answer, but it should prompt one to think. To me, when wishful thinking and utopian dreams of what might be — or could be — outstrip solid accomplishment; we are in the deep weeds.

Should we care how Europe views America? Well, its peoples certainly have changed their tune over seven decades. It’s too bad this current batch of Europeans don’t remember how their grandparents saw America when Hitler marauded over their continent. As for me, it hasn’t escaped my notice that it was the Swedes that suggested multiple choices children facing for punishment and mandated not keeping score in children’s athletic games. To them, evidently, losing is not a good thing.  However, to us as Americans, losing was, is — continues to be —  a character-builder.

Sadly, the background of Nobel and his prize does nothing to restore the Peace Prize’s formerly held high prestige. I, for one, do not know why the committee chose our president — and that’s more the pity. Once upon a time, the Nobel Peace Prize really meant something, and the deeds that inspired it were clear and undeniable.

Isn’t it about time we washed our window to the world? Clearly, it is more important that we see the world for what it is, and not what it could be. Look through it. What do YOU see? Think about it.

Midas Well

Thursday, October 8th, 2009

We’ve all heard the story of King Midas. He had such a penchant for gold that when offered a wish he replied that he wanted everything he touched to turn to the precious metal. Well, if you know the story, it didn’t turn out too well.

That is true of so many things. If something seems too good to be true, one should take that gut feeling and walk away.

We find ourselves in a very emotional time. Not only are more and more of our fellow Americans out of work and searching for another job, but those of us who do work also worry that the specter of government hovers over us like a hawk circling over a very fat rabbit — happily living its life but slow to notice the threat.

We are the sole source for the government’s money. Supposedly, a republic guarantees that our wishes will be honored and that the government only operates with our approval and to our overall benefit.  So much for assumptions.

I became accustomed to the partisan in-fighting years ago. It goes with the territory when it comes to politics. However, when the stakes are so high that they imperil the fiscal security of my grandchildren and THEIR children, the proverbial stuff has hit the fan.

Take careful note of what officials do not explain. It’s not so much what they do say, it’s what they don’t say that matters.  If the devil is in the details, then that explains why the furor in the halls of Congress is so hot right now. Having “behind closed door” sessions and locking out the minority party is not a healthy way to write legislation.

Statistics can be cited to promote any position, pro or con. I had a great graduate class in how to draft a poll.  Basically, you can draft a question to get the answer you want. You must really work at it to craft questions that get to the heart of an issue without bias.  Only a completely unbiased pollster gets correct data from sampling — and the sample must be from a group integral to the question. For example, you don’t poll non-registered voters to get an idea of how voters view major issues. Random sampling is an art unto itself, and pollsters must be very careful to do it well.

I recently went on Medicare. I must say that, even though my private insurance was costlier, it was very good and met all my needs.  However, with all the changes that could come with new legislation, I don’t feel at all comfortable with what may lie around the corner.  If budget studies are correct and Medicare incurs the deep cuts forecast, all seniors will suffer — mightily.  Huge cuts in tests or procedures amounts to rationing, no matter what name they give it.

I find ironic that the majority party has — for decades — thrown slings and arrows at its opposition, claiming that THEY would imperil seniors’ benefits.  Alas, the shoe is on the other foot.  The majority proposes — in legislation — precisely that.  When you cite facts, they call you names.  Great logic, huh?  Try that with a teacher.  Give the wrong answer and then call names and see how far you get!

I know people in Europe and Canada who would mortgage all they have to get the USA for care should they become seriously ill. To go ” to hospital” in England is, pretty much, analogized to a death sentence —- that is, if you manage to get to a doctor in time to even be sent to a hospital.

Be careful what you ask for in health care.  If the number of patients increases by tens of millions and the number of physicians and nurses remains static, just what do you think the outcome will be?  Long waits… delayed tests… rejected procedures… shortages in everything….  When 85% of Americans are perfectly satisfied with their health care, why burden future generations with an unproven, largely conceptual, plan?

There are two sides to everything.  Take a well for example.  A well is wonderful it you are atop it dipping for water, but it is terrifying if you are at the bottom trying to get out.  Don’t allow the government to drop you, your grandchildren and great-grandchildren down a financial well.

The “pie in the sky” single payer option may be a modern day version of what Midas sought. Instead of the right pie, it looms as pyrite:  “Fools’ Gold”! Midas’ Well?  Think about it.

Welcome to IN DEFENSE OF COMMON SENSE on the web!

Tuesday, October 6th, 2009

Welcome to the IN DEFENSE OF COMMON SENSE blog. After seven years as a non-paid columnist for The Shelbyville News, I branch out to the web to reach my readers. I thank each and every one of you who called, wrote, or stopped me in public over those seven years to tell me how much you liked my work. Such compliments not only humble me, but spur me to continue writing. “Swan Song”, the column whose rejection sparked my resignation from the paper, was written to address present legislation planned within the Congress and how I feel that it endangers our republic. Ironically, that title ended up applying to me. It was, sadly, my “Swan Song” as a columnist. Well, when one door closes, another one opens, so I am happy to stand at the virtual door to greet you. I hope you enjoy reading my work half as much as I do writing it. Welcome!

Look for a column soon!