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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.
~Marcus Aurelius
There is nothing to fear except the persistent refusal to find out the truth, the persistent refusal to analyze the causes of happenings.
~Dorothy Thompson

Homegrown Terrorists

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Here's an excerpt from the definitions section of H. R. 1955 which is better known as the Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007:
'(2) VIOLENT RADICALIZATION- The term 'violent radicalization' means the process of adopting or promoting an extremist belief system for the purpose of facilitating ideologically based violence to advance political, religious, or social change.
'(3) HOMEGROWN TERRORISM- The term 'homegrown terrorism' means the use, planned use, or threatened use, of force or violence by a group or individual born, raised, or based and operating primarily within the United States or any possession of the United States to intimidate or coerce the United States government, the civilian population of the United States, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.
'(4) IDEOLOGICALLY BASED VIOLENCE- The term 'ideologically based violence' means the use, planned use, or threatened use of force or violence by a group or individual to promote the group or individual's political, religious, or social beliefs.
How far we've come from the belief that sometimes violent revolution is not only necessary, but our God-given Right, espoused in the Declaration of Independence, for changing our system of government. This language, my friends, is how dissent is quashed. This is how you make holding any idea that doesn't comport to groupthink illegal. This is the very foundation of a full blown dictatorship. The next step is to open the detention and re-education camps where you'll ship all your "homegrown terrorists".
Here's an interesting question: what happens when it's your own government that is trying to protect itself from the changing will of the people? What do you call it when your own government uses "ideologically-based violence" against its own people in furtherance of it's own political or social objectives? Imagine a government that has grown so large that it has created its own money supply and is no longer answerable to the People because it has cut the purse strings the people used to tie it down. Would it not surprise you to see laws passed by that government that would make any actions by the people which moves towards change of the government illegal? What better way to protect itself than to make "the process of adopting or promoting an extremist belief system" illegal? You wouldn't even be allowed to propose the possibility that if the ballot box doesn't work, you could turn to the cartridge box. It's about who has control. And in the end, it won't be you.
There is one last point I want to make. Missing from this bill's definitions section is one important term that this whole bill turns on: an "extremist belief system". Who gets to define what an extremist belief system is? How convenient that it was left out. Now, the beliefs and viewpoints of those in opposition to groupthink (or more to the point: governmentthink) can be used against them by those in control of government. All government would have to do is declare today's definition of an "extremist belief system" as whatever position their targeted opponent is espousing and they've just created the legal justification to silence them by force. No, my friends, this in my opinion was done deliberately.

Today's Non Sequitur

Monday, October 29, 2007

Referendum Measure No. 67

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

It has been claimed--no pun intended--that this referendum would create an environment where every person who thought he got a bad shake from his insurance company would sue them for triple damages because he felt his settlement to be "unfair". I'm respectfully going to disagree with this assertion. I agree that the fairness doctrine is one that should be avoided at all costs, but in this instance, I think the label has been misapplied. Much like the SEC oversees stock trading, this referendum only allows the insurance commissioner the authority to promulgate rules for the conduct of insurance providers. Who determines what is "fair" in the realm of insurance providers? He does.

There are two parts to this referendum. Part one allows the insurance commissioner to make rules concerning how insurance companies conduct business in this state. Part two removes from the insurance companies the ability to deny claims without reason. The language* of the measure specifically uses the word "unreasonable" to describe what will not be allowed. To me, unreasonable, as used in the new code, means without reason.

*(7) An insurer engaged in the business of insurance may not unreasonably deny a claim for coverage or payment of benefits to any first party claimant. (Emphasis added)

I've talked to several people recently that have been denied their claims (one individual who's house burned down, another who was physically injured, to name a few) for no apparent reason. These poor people have been battling their insurance companies for well over a year just to get them into court where they can argue their cases before a judge. These people are who I believe the drafters of this measure were hoping to protect by legally expediting the process.

If a judge determines that the insurance company has denied a claim without reason they can then be penalized for up to three times the amount of the claimed damages. I really don't see where the claims for abuse are justified. Will people bring suit where they have no standing (claiming their insurance companies denied their claims without reason)? Sure, but I think their claims will be discovered to be untrue almost immediately and they will have to pay for all attorney's and court costs themselves. I think that that, in and of itself, would prohibit frivolous claims.

I feel pretty good with the way this measure is structured and will be voting for it. You can view the complete text of Referendum 67
here (.pdf document).

...But Gold Is Up

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Dow is down 366 point; Nasdaq down 74. One U.S. dollar will buy you 96 cents Canadian. And now Caterpillar says the U.S. economy will be "near to, or even in, recession" by next year. Do you ever get the feeling that it's all going to hell-in-a-hand-basket? I feel sorry for those baby-boomers who were looking forward to retiring in the next few years. The fed is going to eat their lunch.

Just Joking

Thursday, October 18, 2007

A cowboy named Bud was overseeing his herd in a remote mountainous pasture in California when suddenly a brand-new BMW advanced out of a dust cloud towards him.

The driver, a young man in a Brioni suit, Gucci shoes, RayBan sunglasses and YSL tie, leans out the window and asks the cowboy, "If I tell you exactly how many cows and calves you have in your herd, Will you give me a calf?"

Bud looks at the man, obviously a yuppie, then looks at his peacefully grazing herd and calmly answers, "Sure, Why not?"

The yuppie parks his car, whips out his Dell notebook computer, connects it to his Cingular RAZR V3 cell phone, and surfs to a NASA page on the Internet, where he calls up a GPS satellite to get an exact fix on his location which he then feeds to another NASA satellite that scans the area in an ultra-high-resolution photo.

The young man then opens the digital photo in Adobe PhotoShop and exports it to an image processing facility in Hamburg, Germany .

Within seconds, he receives an email on his Palm Pilot that the image has been processed and the data stored. He then accesses a MS-SQL database through an ODBC connected Excel spreadsheet with email on his Blackberry and, after a few minutes, receives a response.

Finally, he prints out a full-color, 150-page report on his hi-tech, miniaturized HP LaserJet printer and turns to the cowboy and says, "You have exactly 1,586 cows and calves."

"That's right. Well, I guess you can take one of my calves," says Bud.

He watches the young man select one of the animals and looks on amused as the young man stuffs it into the trunk of his car.

Then Bud says to the young man, "Hey, if I can tell you exactly what your business is, will you give me back my calf?"

The young man thinks about it for a second and then says, "Okay, why not?"

"You're a Congressman for the U.S. Government", says Bud.

"Wow! That's correct," says the yuppie, "but how did you guess that?"

"No guessing required." answered the cowboy. "You showed up here even though nobody called you; you want to get paid for an answer I already knew, to a question I never asked. You tried to show me how much smarter than me you are; and you don't know a thing about cows... this is a herd of sheep..."

"Now give me back my dog."

Wrong People Asking The Right Questions

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

So, where were we? Oh, that's right... The Bush administration has been running roughshod over the Rights of the American people by conducting secret surveillance programs on American's communications without court order. To make matters worse, American telephone companies have either been complicit in aiding the administration, or were forced to help. Either way, they are both guilty of violating our Rights.
Fed up with what appears to be a blossoming soft dictatorship, the American people have called upon their representatives in Congress to put an end to this rampant surveillance state. To that end, the House Energy and Commerce Committee has begun inquiries into what roles the telecommunications companies played in spying on Americans without warrants. And, on cue:
Three of the largest U.S. telephone companies declined to answer lawmakers' questions about Bush administration efforts to spy on Americans' phone calls and e-mails, saying the government forbade them from doing so.
Verizon and Qwest said the Justice Department prohibited them from offering any substantive comment on their roles in the spy program. AT&T said Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell invoked the state-secrets privilege to prevent the carrier from commenting.
But that's not exactly right. You see, the telephone companies can talk, they just need to be asked by the right "people" in government. Those that are asking the questions of them right now are with the House Energy and Commerce Committee. They don't have the proper authority to receive the answers to the questions they're asking. Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell's spokesman, Ross Feinstein, said the House and Senate Intelligence committees have the authority to oversee intelligence activities under the 1947 National Security Act.
It's a smokescreen. Our representatives can look like they're doing something about government run amok, but when they run into the inevitable brick wall, they can say to the American people, "We asked, but they refused to tell us. What more can we do? We can't make them talk." They knew from the outset that they had no authority to get answers to these types of questions from the phone companies. The whole thing is a circus to placate the people... and it's working.

Quote of the Day

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The problem is that the Constitution isn't nuanced enough; it's like the Ten Commandments — unequivocal, straightforward and means what it says. Politicians, lawyers, judges and members of the media cannot abide clarity. It gives them no room to lie.

A Little Clarification on Immunization

Just to clarify what the president is saying, when you read his demand that:
[A]ny bill must grant retroactive immunity to U.S. telecommunications companies that allegedly helped conduct electronic surveillance without court orders.
What he's saying is that, yes indeed, U.S. telecommunications companies did break the law when they assisted the government in electronic surveillance without court order. How do I know this? Why else would you seek immunity? If you've done nothing wrong, why would you need immunity? He's basically admitting they're guilty of violating both federal law and the U.S. Constitution and now he's seeking congressionally-approved get-out-of-jail-free cards for tel-com companies.
"But, wait! It was done to protect us from terrorists!" you scream. I DON'T CARE. No one is permitted to run rough-shod over our laws and Constitution. We are a nation of laws, period. For Bush and his administration to ask--or even pressure--companies into breaking the law makes him no better than the terrorists he claims to be trying to protect us from. He's become a soft-dictator; nothing more. And he and all his friends need to be removed from office and criminal charges need to be brought against them for violating U.S. laws, international laws, and the Rights and Liberties of all mankind (not just Americans).
On a side note: I believe the reason Bush is looking for "immunity" is because he knows that to ask for anything else would be in direct violation of both federal law and the U.S. Constitution. Congress has no authority to authorize private companies to break the law and he knows it. Immunity is his only avenue... unless he pardons them as he leaves office. However, I would challenge any executive pardon that allows someone to infringe upon our Constitutionally protected Rights on the grounds that the Executive has no authority to pardon someone for violating the Constitution. If that were the case, then anyone could gain the presidency and act the tyrant for four years. Then he (or she) could pardon everyone on the way out the door and there wouldn't be a damned thing we could do about it.

What Rights?

Sunday, October 07, 2007

I received, in my Inbox, the following quote by Samuel Adams:
"No people will tamely surrender their Liberties, nor can any be easily subdued, when knowledge is diffusd and Virtue is preservd. On the Contrary, when People are universally ignorant, and debauchd in their Manners, they will sink under their own weight without the Aid of foreign Invaders."
~Samuel Adams (letter to James Warren, 4 November 1775)
It got me thinking about our Rights and how we really have no Rights other than those we claim and defend. That makes sense, right? We all claim to have the "Freedom of Speech", but as soon as the government comes along and says, "Shut up or go to jail", we comply. Now, I ask you, do we really have this Right? No. of course not. Why? Because we have to be willing to claim and defend our Rights no matter what the consequences.
I also had the thought that we, as Americans, have become, generally, ignorant of our Rights. Want proof? Here you go:
You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to have an attorney present during questioning. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you.
~Miranda warning
Here we have the government telling you what your Rights are if you happen to get stopped and questioned by law enforcement officers. People, let me tell you that if government has to tell you what your Rights are, you don't have any. Every American should know and claim their Rights and they should be willing to defend them, no matter what.
Maybe Alexander Hamilton's fear that an enumeration of some rights in the constitution might be taken to imply the absence of other rights. He tried to guard against it with an amendment:
The exceptions here or elsewhere in the Constitution, made in favor of particular rights, shall not be so construed as to diminish the just importance of other rights retained by the people, or as to enlarge the powers delegated by the Constitution; but either as actual limitations of such powers, or as inserted merely for greater caution. (Source)
This, of course, was the foundation for what later become the Ninth Amendment:
The enumeration in this Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
Remember the Ninth? Seldom cited and hardly understood. Too bad. We really need to get back in touch with what made America so great: the individual, self-government, and the preservation and protection of our rights by our government. 

Parroting Bush

Monday, October 01, 2007

Laura Bush bought George a parrot for his birthday.

She told Dick Cheney, "The bird is so smart, George has already taught him to pronounce over 200 words!"

"Wow, that's pretty impressive," Cheney said, "But, you do realize that he just says the words. He doesn't really understand what they mean."

"That's okay," Laura replied. "Neither does the parrot."

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