Monday, December 26, 2011

Now that the presents are opened...

I just wanted to take a minute to remind myself and everyone else why we spent today opening gifts and stuffing ourselves full of glorious food. Hit it Linus:

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free... it expects what never was, and never will be." -Thomas Jefferson

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Bill of Rights eviscerated on their anniversary

On December 15, 1791 - 220 years ago, today - the Bill of Rights were officially ratified and added to the Constitution.

How sad it is that on this day of all days, President Obama signed the 2012 version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which includes Section 1031. This section gives the President the option of ordering the military to indefinitely detain American citizens without charges, evidence, or trial if the citizen is suspected of terrorist activity. Of course, if you have ever read the PATRIOT Act, "terrorist activity" is pretty much whatever the government wants it to be.

There are plenty of people who continue to insist that people like me are confused, and that Section 1031 of the NDAA does not apply to American citizens. The Hill, for instance reports that,
In both cases, the bill does not create any new authority to detain U.S. citizens, ensuring their rights to a fair trial, and the military detention language does exempts U.S. citizens.
Of course, that assurance leaves me with little comfort when all one has to do is listen to the Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator Carl Levin (D-MI), insist that the power to detain American citizens does indeed exist because after all, it was President Obama who insisted that that power be included in the bill. Don't take my word for it. Watch this:

In addition to Senator Levin's candid assertions, there also exists a letter, signed by 40 members of Congress - many of whom I usually disagree on many other issues - that was sent to the members of the Senate Armed Services Committee. In the letter, the signatories express their concerns about the application of NDAA Section 1031, stating:
...[T]he Senate-passed version of the NDAA, S. 1867, contains Section 1031, which authorizes indefinite military detention of suspected terrorists without protecting U.S. Citizens' right to trial. We are deeply concerned that this provision could undermine the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth amendment rights of U.S. Citizens who might be subjects of detention or prosecution by the military.
I know that many people will scoff at these events and say that we average American citizens have nothing to worry about; that this law is only meant to snag American citizens of middle-eastern background who are actively engaging in planned terrorist attacks against the United States on our own soil. The problem with this myopic view is that anyone with eyes to see and ears to hear and a brain to think knows that inevitably, the power of government grows over time, and what was once unthinkable in our society eventually becomes commonplace, especially if the government is given what appears at first to be some innocuous tool meant for a specific purpose that they eventually use as a broad brush.

Don't forget that just yesterday, Obama stated without ambiguity or secrecy that if Congress didn't do what he wants done, he is just going to bypass them and do it anyway, saying
"Well, what we're going to have to do is continue to make progress on the economy over the next several months. And where Congress is not willing to act, we're going to go ahead and do it ourselves. But it would be nice if we could get a little bit of help from Capitol Hill."
With that kind of unconstitutional attitude, do you really want to put into Obama's hands, the kind of power that Section 1031 of the NDAA affords? Really?

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free... it expects what never was, and never will be." -Thomas Jefferson

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Pearl Harbor: 70 years ago

Before there was the Islamic attacks of 9/11, there was the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

That infamous attack happened on December 7, 1941 - 70 years ago today.

They are getting a little slower in their step, but there are still survivors of that day. The Today show interviewed one of them, who was an 18-year old swabbie at the time. Click here to read his account of that "Day of Infamy."

I was born in 1972, so I missed the 30th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, however, I distinctly remember being 9-years old and sitting at the dinner table on the evening of December 7, 1981 as I watched a lengthy nightly news story on the 40th anniversary of the Japanese attack. Time flies.

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free... it expects what never was, and never will be." -Thomas Jefferson

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

President Luddite

Seriously, Barack?

Hey everyone, did you know that two of the reasons our economy is in the doldrums is because of ATMs and the Internet? After all, these two technological advancements took away the jobs of travel agents, phone operators, and bank tellers.

Honest to Pete, that is what is our "smartest guy in the room" president actually thinks. Click here to watch Obummer make a fool of himself... again.

I wonder how our country ever survived after the people who worked in buggy whip factories and telegraph offices lost their jobs?

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free... it expects what never was, and never will be." -Thomas Jefferson

Sunday, December 04, 2011

The national unemployment rate: The devil is in the details

You gotta hand it to government; they have a language all their own.

My favorite example is the government definition of a spending cut. Seldom is the amount of spending on any particular government program actually cut, whereby the government spends less tax money on a program this year than last year. No, to the government, a spending cut is actually a reduction in the annual increase in spending on that program. More is spent than the previous year; just not as much as originally planned. And that is considered a spending cut. Nice, huh?

Then there is the unemployment rate. Our local newspaper, the Sacramento Bee, had splashed across the front page a headline that trumpeted a reduction in the national unemployment rate from 9.1% to 8.6%.

Look around you. Look at all the businesses that have closed their doors, that are shuttered, abandoned, and defunct. Look at all the housing developments sitting half-completed. You are not going to tell me that the unemployment rate is only 8.6%. Guess what? It's not.

Once upon a time, when the government reported the unemployment rate, they used to report the percentage of the workforce that was out of work, but was either actively looking for work, or wanted to work but had given up looking. In 1994, the Bureau of Labor Statistics under the Clinton administration began to only report the percentage of unemployed who were actively looking for work, and it has been done that way ever since. People who had been unemployed so long that the unemployment insurance had run out and they had stopped looking? Those people - according to the government - were no longer considered to be unemployed.

Buried deep within the website of the Bureau of Labor Statistics is a frequently-updated table that shows the percentages of different categories of unemployment. The U3 row shows the "official" unemployment rate, which again is currently 8.6%. What you want to look at is U6. This tallies the percentage of the work force that is either actively looking for work, has given up looking for work, or is only working reduced hours or reduced pay because that is the only work they could find. Factor all that in, and the unemployment rate is not an unrealistic 8.6%, but instead a very believable 15.6%! Percentages like that during the 1930s indicated that we were in an economic depression. What are we living in now?

See the BLS table for yourself. It is often updated, so the numbers may have changed from the ones I reported.

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free... it expects what never was, and never will be." -Thomas Jefferson