Friday, December 29, 2017

My Problem With Palestine

I've spent a lot of time pondering the Palestinian-Israeli problem over the years.  I certainly don't believe that I can fix the problem single-handedly, but I would like to put out a couple of items that the public at large doesn't seem to know or consider when the issue is discussed.

You may or may not know that the Palestinians effectively lost their land because of the six day war in 1967.  In a nutshell, Israel's neighbors had a problem with Israel's existence since the country was re-created in 1948.  These neighboring countries (Egypt, Jordan and Syria) tried a couple of times since 1948 to kick Israel's ass, and consistently failed.  In 1967, this happened again, and in a matter of six days, Israel took an ass load of land from these countries.  In short, the Palestinians tried to take something from Israel, and the Israelis eradicated Palestine from the map.  My take:  If you go to war with a country and lose, you really don't have much to cry about, especially if you're the aggressor!

Going back further, there has never been a historical country of Palestine.  There have been Palestinian territories going back to the Roman Empire, but there has never been a country named Palestine in the same sense that there has been a France, Britain, China or USA.  This means that the Palestinians are more of a cultural people than a geographic people.

If you put these issues together, it seems to me that the Palestinians are being rather unreasonable in their demands for land and peace.  They claim a right to East Jerusalem, though they've never had a country, much less a country with Jerusalem as its capital.  They claim land that they lost through their own misplaced aggression.  It seems to me that life would be easier for everyone if they took what was offered and moved forward peacefully.

This, of course, is my own take.  I am absolutely willing to hear new information.  I don't have all the answers, and welcome the opportunity for someone to prove me wrong, or change my mind.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Libertarians are Leading With the Wrong Argument

Those of you who know me are likely aware that I'm a Libertarian and have been one for... well, quite a while. Over the years, I've heard time and time again that Taxation is Theft.  It's become kind of a rallying cry for the Libertarian party.  Unfortunately, it's the wrong opening discussion.  Here's why:

The reason I became a Libertarian was not because of money.  I became a Libertarian because I was disillusioned with the Democrats and Republicans.  I got tired of the lies, the broken promises, the crony capitalism and backroom deals.  I grew sick of seeing politicians getting elected to office as decent people only to be turned into party automatons.  I got tired of seeing new laws that curtailed my personal rights.

Bitching about taxation is all well and good.  I don't know anyone who loves paying taxes.  But at the end of the day, choosing taxation as the Meme for the Libertarian Party is not the best place to start the discussion. Taxation is a finite item with a limited appeal and value.  We should talk about how our individual freedoms are being eroded.  People seem to agree that freedom has no price.  So why are we leading with taxation, which has a set dollar value, when we can talk about personal freedom, which has a value beyond measure?  Libertarians are leading with the wrong argument.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Protect Our Private Information

I'm sure that you've heard about the Equifax breach.  I don't know about you, but I'm tired of the haphazard, lazy securing of our private data.  Corporate America has proven that self-policing doesn't work, so it's time to get the Government involved.  I will be writing a letter to my legislators at the state and national level, and I encourage you to do the same.  For your convenience, I am including the text that I will be sending in.  Feel free to copy and paste, and send to your own elected officials.

I am writing to express my anger and dismay over the Equifax data breach.  I am tired of not having my personal, private data properly secured.  Government and private entities have repeatedly demonstrated a lack of convern over my financial data and proven that self-policing is not a sufficient deterrant.  With this in mind, I am asking for legislation designed to provide intentives to keep personal data personal, and to punish those who fail to do so.  My proposed legislation is two-pronged.

First and foremost, there must be a real, tangible financial penalty for those who fail to protect customer data.  Companies who fail to protect such data should be prohibited from forcing customers into arbitration. This will allow victims of sloppy security the opportunity to be better compensated for lost time and money.  Companies who fail to protect private data will also be forced to provide lifetime credit monitoring and fraud assistance for anyone whose data was compromised, whether or not an actual loss occurred.  The idea is that it should be the company's responsibility to make things right when a data breach occurs, not the consumer's.  This means that if a company fails to keep my data secure, they are on the hook for all expenses incurred as a result, permanently.  Attorney fees, lost time, damage to credit, damage to reputation, and direct or indirect financial loss should all be subject to this law.  If, when you consider the wording of this legislation, you need to choose between erring on the side of the company, or err on the side of the consumer, you must err on the side of the consumer.

My second proposal is aimed at the Credit Reporting Agencies.  I propose legislation that requires Credit Reporting Agencies to allow all consumers to lock and unlock their private credit information at will, at no cost to the individual.  While consumers have a choice whether or not to carry credit cards, and when to use credit, we do not have a choice regarding whether or not our data is submitted to the Credit Reporting Agencies.  We have neither the right, nor the choice to opt out.  Adding insult to injury, we are usually required to pay for the privilege of preventing third parties from accessing our data, and if we do choose to pay to keep our data private, we need to pay again so that potential creditors and employers can access this data.  This is OUR private information, and the Credit Reporting Agencies are charging us to keep it private.

Thank you for your consideration in this important matter.

For your convenience, I am also including a link that will help you find your elected officials.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Questions for Libertarians

Those of you who know me realize that I consider myself a liberal-leaning Libertarian.  In general, I believe that the government is too large, too intrusive, and too wasteful.  At the same time, I see just as many signs of capitalism running amok, taking advantage of the little guy to the same extent as government.  Trusting the market is well and good, as long as you realize that market efficiency and human compassion are often-times mutually exclusive.  I'd like to bring up a couple of points here, and ask my fellow Libertarians how they see these issues, and how they would solve them.

Let me start with the topic of income inequality.  I'm fairly confident that we can all agree that income inequality exists in America.  We most certainly agree that income inequality drives economic productivity, because people desire to get ahead in life.  The thing is, the deck is heavily stacked against the little guy.  Statistics show that the wealthiest 1% of America holds approximately 40% of all wealth.  Conversely, the bottom 20% holds less than 1% of the wealth, and statistics indicate that this income inequality is only accelerating.  The middle class, which historians and economists consider critical to a prosperous, stable society, is rapidly shrinking.  I suspect that my Libertarian friends will blame this inequality on the government, but that answer is far too simplistic, and not entirely accurate.  The result of labor relations before government involvement was the 1900's, which was the only time in American history where the distribution of wealth was more skewed than it is today.  We know that income inequality has been the downfall of many societies, and given our current course, I see that happening in America in the not-too-distant future.  My first question:  How does Libertarianism address the problem of extreme income inequality?

The second topic is environmental.  Time and again, I hear Libertarians effectively say that they want to get rid of the government.  Heck, a lot of Libertarians want to privatize roads.  The thing is, capitalism does an abysmal job of considering environmental impact when calculating costs.  If we get the government out of environmental enforcement, how do we ensure that future generations will have clean air to breathe and water to drink?  I cannot believe that business will voluntarily do the right thing.  I'm convinced that if left to its own devices, business will take us back to the 1970's environmentally, and then go downhill.  I suspect that you will say that consumers can demand XYZ, and business will make it happen.  However, that assumes that the consumer has realistic alternatives, it assumes that the consumer is always rational, and it assumes that the consumer has the financial means to vote with his dollar.  All of these are inaccurate assumptions.  So... how do Libertarians handle the problem of pollution?

I'd love to hear your thoughts.  Please sound off.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Just When I Think it's All Good...

Dammit Greg,

I made it through your birthday this year.  I was even happily recalling some of our hi-jinks without getting all wistful.  I've recently been able to talk about your death much more matter-of-factly.  But this morning I was browsing online for a new tent, and it made me think back to all of our Boys' Trips, and now I'm missing you again.

That's the thing I don't believe you understood when you checked out.  You had no idea how intertwined you were with our existence... our happiness.  You had no idea how many people you would hurt, and how long that ache would last.  Like I said to you earlier, your suicide left a special kind of pain.  It's like herpes, man... the gift that keeps on giving.

I guess I need to be clear about something, and I'll explain it in terms you'll understand, because you've always loved the water.  The grief is kind of like ripples in a pond.  That initial splash, when you actually died, was like throwing a huge rock into a perfectly calm pong, and it threatened to drown us.  Now time has passed.  The center is calm again; the ripples are smaller as they're spreading further away from that initial violent splash.  This isn't a perfect analogy though, because I'm starting to see that those ripples will probably never completely go away.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Not Quite a Bust

Well, today is the big day... the solar eclipse.  I had been hoping to take my grandson out to see the spectacle, making a full science day out of it.  I'd hoped to show him how to cook nachos in a solar oven, teach him how to burn stuff with a magnifying glass, and a few other science activities.  Unfortunately, mother nature isn't cooperating in my neck of the woods.  It's been raining most of the morning, and the sky is overcast to the point that we can't see the sun.  The closest we will come to experiencing the eclipse is that it will become quite dark outside.

It hasn't been a total loss though.  Being a Marine, I adapted, improvised and overcame, and we've spent the entire morning doing indoor science experiments.  Here's what we did...

-We did the vinegar and baking soda experiment.  I added a little personal flare by mixing some food coloring in with the vinegar.

-We made magic mud with cornstarch and water.  We had a lot of fun with this one.

-We made a mason jar ocean by filling the mason jar about halfway with blue-dyed water, and then topping it off with vegetable oil.  He said this was his favorite... probably because he gets to keep it as a souvenir.

-We shined up tarnished pennies by putting them in a glass with vinegar.

-We put part of a bar of Ivory soap into the microwave and watched it expand like a marshmallow.

-We did some tie-dye art on paper.  We started with milk in a large casserole dish.   We added some dish soap, and then added food coloring.  We then placed a couple of pieces of paper on top of the solution.  The result (which is still drying) is tie-dyed sheets of paper.

-We put a raw egg into vinegar, and are watching the vinegar dissolve the egg shell.

We had a lot of fun doing science stuff.  Definitely a day well spent.  It was nowhere near the bust it could have been.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Getting Loesst

The second to last day we rode through the Loess Hills, and once again, Iowa's scenery gave me a pleasant surprise.  I had heard that the scenery and riding out there was really cool, but after the previous days' rides, I knew that somewhere, sometime, I'd be let down.  I was once again wowed by what Iowa had to offer.

We spent the early part of the day on Loess Hills Scenic Byways, winding our way north through hills, valleys, woods, farmland and over rivers.  We went over 50 miles at a time without seeing a town large enough to have a gas station.  The ride was beautiful, relaxing, rustic and invigorating.

The Loess Hills portion of the ride ended in Sioux City, where we darted into South Dakota for a while. which completed our quest to hit every state surrounding Iowa during this journey.  Another cool thing about South Dakota is that they have an 80 MPH speed limit on their freeways.  This gave us an opportunity to (legally) open the throttle on our respective rides and see what they could do.  Interestingly enough, I saw a LOT of vehicles (including us) that tended to cruise at speeds between 70 and 80 MPH.  I didn't see much speeding.

We continued north until we hit US Highway 18, at which point we turned eastward, ending in Algona.  We were within 50 miles of our destination and saw rain on the horizon.  We geared up and headed into the rain.  In very short order, rain was falling so hard that we had a difficult time seeing the road, so we turned on the flashers and slowed down.  That's when the hail started.  In all fairness though, the hail stones were just large enough for me to say that we were caught in a hail storm.  Regardless, it continued raining harder, and we responded by slowing our pace.  Just about the time I wondered how I (we) could continue safely, we entered the next town.  The first building in town was a car wash, so I led us into bay of the car wash, where we waited out the storm, which passed in just a few more minutes.