Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Hilton HHonors announces First Quarter 2012 promotion

    Hilton has announced its First Quarter 2012 promotion, and while there is some moaning and groaning over at the board, I think it's decent enough for several reasons.
    The promotion, simply called More Points, offers a bonus of 1,000 bonus HHonors points per night from Jan. 1 2012, to March 31, 2012. As an added bonus guests who stay at least two weekend nights, counting Thursday night as a weekend night, will get an additional 5,000 bonus points. So if I'm reading the offer correctly, a stay of Thursday and Friday night would garner 7,000 bonus points.
    Here's why I think the Hilton offer is generous enough. Promotions have been decreasing across the board at all hotel chains. Most hotels offer fewer promotions at the start of the year as everyone is concentrating on booking enough stays to guarantee their loyalty status for the next year. And many chains offer absolutely nothing until Feb. 1.
    Using Jinny as an example, she will need 28 Hilton stays to keep her Diamond status for 2013. There is a natural desire to get ahead of the curve and get a few more than 14 stays under her belt by July 1. That way she will almost be assured of making Diamond for the next year. Aware of this, the chains then roll out some better promotions after mid-year, to make sure that people who have already earned their tier status don't stray to greener pastures.
    The fact is that with this promotion a traveler with 12 nights that include two weekends is almost certain to earn enough regular and bonus points to get a free hotel room anywhere in the world. In places like London these rooms cost as much as $500 per night. So unless or until the program gets gutted, it's a pretty good deal.
    We can always hope for more, but for a First Quarter promotion I think it's okay. Be sure to check the exclusion list as a number of hotels aren't participating.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Twelve-day celebration better for Christmas

    Today is the first day of Christmas!
    One of the many ideas my spousal unit has vetoed over the years has been my desire to celebrate Christmas and Santa Claus over 12 days instead of having a obscene mass of toys and presents dumped on the children on Christmas Day.
    My dream was to have a simple Christmas Day, with merely a stocking filled with a few small trinkets and perhaps one small gift. Then each day a new gift would arrive, with the biggest gift arriving on Christmas' final day, January 5, or perhaps three final gifts on January 6, Epiphany, which marks the arrival of the wise men bearing three gifts for baby Jesus.
    In these days when we hear of people using pepper spray and fists to beat other people to popular tennis shoes, a simple Christmas Day is mighty appealing. I think it's fair to say that the true meaning of Christmas shouldn't be about pepper spraying people to keep them from buying the items you wish to purchase. (As an aside, the stores which provide a limited number of deeply discounted sale items should be required to pay damages to people who are injured as a result. The injuries are foreseeable, therefore the merchants should be liable.)
    Christmas is supposed to be about celebrating the birth of Christ. Celebrating it over 12 days with a more simple Christmas Day would promote that.
    Oh, and we could buy most of our gifts on deep discount at the after-Christmas sales. Half-price wrapping paper, too!
    Maybe next year.

Monday, December 19, 2011

On taxing wealth, Huey Long had it half right

    If Huey Long were on the political scene today, chances are I would be dead set against him. He was a despot and a demagogue. And yet, if you look back at some of his proposals, they aren’t so radical at all. In fact, water them down a little and they make darn good sense!
    Some of Long’s proposals are already law. The credit for Social Security and other New Deal programs belongs to Huey Long, not Franklin Roosevelt. Roosevelt only enacted them in order to take the wind out of Long’s sails, as Long was a serious contender for the 1936 presidential election and was agitating mightily for them.
    Long’s signature campaign platform was his Share Our Wealth plan. Essentially this plan was designed to whittle down the large estates and help the poor. Long hadn’t done his math, because it really wasn’t going to help the poor that much, but he told one reporter that was a worry for another election.
    Long’s plan, which I don’t agree with entirely, would have effectively sought to cap both income and wealth. He started out wanting to tax estates of $50 million or more (1933 dollars!) but quickly amended this to estates of $5 million or more. His plan was to cap annual income at $1 million and to progressively tax large estates, so that a $5 million estate would pay a five percent annual estate tax and an estate of $8 million or more would pay an annual estate tax of eight percent. Although I don't agree with the scope of Long's plan, I am surprised that there is essentially no voice in America calling for any taxation on wealth. What voices there are call for a one-time, ruinous tax at the time of death, which is counterproductive.
    It’s worth noting that Long’s plan really wouldn’t confiscate these people’s wealth, only whittle it down – a death of a thousand cuts, if you will.
    So what would Long’s plan look like today? A million dollars in 1933 is almost equal to $18 million today. $5 million is almost equal to $80 million. I’m not in favor of capping income at all, but levying a few wealth taxes on estates of more than $80 million – or more than $10 million for that matter – isn’t going to harm anyone.
    Now let me add that I think high income taxes are always a bad idea. People really will quit working and quit investing. There are a lot of good reasons why we shouldn’t tax income at high rates, no matter how high that income is.
    But a small annual tax on wealth is another matter. I think Huey Long’s proposed eight percent tax on large estates is too large, but a two percent annual tax on large estates and a three percent tax on mega-estates isn’t going to “confiscate” anyone’s wealth. Make it four percent and you can do away with the death tax altogether.
    This wealth tax can also be applied to corporations that send their profits overseas. The corporation either has a net worth or not. If it does, tax it. I’m always amused when people like Warren Buffet call for an increase in the income tax. You could raise the income tax to 90 percent and it wouldn’t hurt Buffet, because he has very little income in relation to his wealth. He never sells anything, and thus never has to pay taxes on his profits.  But tax his wealth, and suddenly this man will have to pay his fair share, and see if he doesn’t sing a different tune on taxes!
    Make no mistake, rich people contribute a lot to this country. I am a capitalist through and through. But over the last dozen years or so the moneyed interests have manipulated the system to profit when times are good and to have the taxpayers cover their losses when times are bad. Essentially over the past 10 years there has been a mass confiscation of wealth and income from the American middle class to transfer it to the high end of the upper class. Should we as a society snatch a little back it isn’t “confiscation.” It’s a self-help repossession.
    Our system is no longer a capitalist system, but a crony capitalist system, where spoils are distributed based on political contributions or racial affiliation.  Most schemes to raise taxes do so by hitting the upper middle class while allowing the super-rich to avoid taxes. It’s wrong.
    If we follow Huey Long’s advice and tax wealth, we tax everyone, and tax everyone fairly. We just don’t need to go overboard while we’re doing it.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

KLM Airlines to link Facebook to seat selection process

    It had to happen. KLM Airlines is coming up with a system to allow customers to view Facebook profiles of potential seatmates.
    I'm a little uncertain exactly how this system would work. Personally I wish airlines would just enforce some rules, such as requiring big people to buy two seats, banning perfume or smelly people and requiring the upper legs and shoulders to be covered.
    The idea is that we're all going to socially network while flying on an airplane, and so we should pick someone we have something in common with to sit by. The problem is that most people want to be left alone when they fly. Years and years ago there was a computer game called Leisure Suit Larry. Larry gets trapped into a middle seat next to a guy in the aisle who won't shut up, and as a result he can't save the day as it were. The solution? Larry hands the guy a religious tract and tries to strike up a conversation. Mr. Verbose runs into the bathroom.
    I predict more people will act like Leisure Suit Larry than will try to act like a desirable networking partner. I don't want a stranger to pick me and then try to talk to me.
    If I ever fly an airline with this type of seating system, I'll be changing my profile picture to that of Jabba the Hut. I'll start posting things like "Lost three pounds this week. Down to 463!"; "Doctor says he can't find cause of body odor problem, but he's still working on it."; "Got a trip coming up and feel AWFUL. Hope I'm not coming down with the flu."
    That seems like the best way to get a row to myself.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

In 1947 Jordan's king begged us to put end to Mid-East turmoil

    Here's an interesting essay, written back in 1947, by the king of Jordan, King Abdullah. Don't know if he had a speech writer, but it is a fine an essay as I've ever read. To understand the conflict between the Jews and the Arabs in the Mid-East, read this column. Then ask yourself, why didn't the United States allow some of these Jews to come here?
    There's a lot to be said against the notion of "kings." But the royal family of Jordan ranks as one of the best in the world. It is a somewhat real, somewhat artificial dynasty, created from a family with Saudi roots and supposed descendancy from the prophet Mohamed. But if all royals acted like those in Jordan, the world would be a better place.

"As the Arabs see the Jews"
His Majesty King Abdullah,
The American Magazine
November, 1947

I am especially delighted to address an American audience, for the tragic problem of Palestine will never be solved without American understanding, American sympathy, American support.

So many billions of words have been written about Palestine—perhaps more than on any other subject in history—that I hesitate to add to them. Yet I am compelled to do so, for I am reluctantly convinced that the world in general, and America in particular, knows almost nothing of the true case for the Arabs.

We Arabs follow, perhaps far more than you think, the press of America. We are frankly disturbed to find that for every word printed on the Arab side, a thousand are printed on the Zionist side.

There are many reasons for this. You have many millions of Jewish citizens interested in this question. They are highly vocal and wise in the ways of publicity. There are few Arab citizens in America, and we are as yet unskilled in the technique of modern propaganda.

The results have been alarming for us. In your press we see a horrible caricature and are told it is our true portrait. In all justice, we cannot let this pass by default.

Our case is quite simple: For nearly 2,000 years Palestine has been almost 100 per cent Arab. It is still preponderantly Arab today, in spite of enormous Jewish immigration. But if this immigration continues we shall soon be outnumbered—a minority in our home.

Palestine is a small and very poor country, about the size of your state of Vermont. Its Arab population is only about 1,200,000. Already we have had forced on us, against our will, some 600,000 Zionist Jews. We are threatened with many hundreds of thousands more.

Our position is so simple and natural that we are amazed it should even be questioned. It is exactly the same position you in America take in regard to the unhappy European Jews. You are sorry for them, but you do not want them in your country.

We do not want them in ours, either. Not because they are Jews, but because they are foreigners. We would not want hundreds of thousands of foreigners in our country, be they Englishmen or Norwegians or Brazilians or whatever.

Think for a moment: In the last 25 years we have had one third of our entire population forced upon us. In America that would be the equivalent of 45,000,000 complete strangers admitted to your country, over your violent protest, since 1921. How would you have reacted to that?

Because of our perfectly natural dislike of being overwhelmed in our own homeland, we are called blind nationalists and heartless anti-Semites. This charge would be ludicrous were it not so dangerous.

No people on earth have been less "anti-Semitic" than the Arabs. The persecution of the Jews has been confined almost entirely to the Christian nations of the West. Jews, themselves, will admit that never since the Great Dispersion did Jews develop so freely and reach such importance as in Spain when it was an Arab possession. With very minor exceptions, Jews have lived for many centuries in the Middle East, in complete peace and friendliness with their Arab neighbours.

Damascus, Baghdad, Beirut and other Arab centres have always contained large and prosperous Jewish colonies. Until the Zionist invasion of Palestine began, these Jews received the most generous treatment—far, far better than in Christian Europe. Now, unhappily, for the first time in history, these Jews are beginning to feel the effects of Arab resistance to the Zionist assault. Most of them are as anxious as Arabs to stop it. Most of these Jews who have found happy homes among us resent, as we do, the coming of these strangers.

I was puzzled for a long time about the odd belief which apparently persists in America that Palestine has somehow "always been a Jewish land." Recently an American I talked to cleared up this mystery. He pointed out that the only things most Americans know about Palestine are what they read in the Bible. It was a Jewish land in those days, they reason, and they assume it has always remained so.

Nothing could be farther from the truth. It is absurd to reach so far back into the mists of history to argue about who should have Palestine today, and I apologise for it. Yet the Jews do this, and I must reply to their "historic claim." I wonder if the world has ever seen a stranger sight than a group of people seriously pretending to claim a land because their ancestors lived there some 2,000 years ago!

If you suggest that I am biased, I invite you to read any sound history of the period and verify the facts.

Such fragmentary records as we have indicate that the Jews were wandering nomads from Iraq who moved to southern Turkey, came south to Palestine, stayed there a short time, and then passed to Egypt, where they remained about 400 years. About 1300 BC (according to your calendar) they left Egypt and gradually conquered most—but not all—of the inhabitants of Palestine.

It is significant that the Philistines—not the Jews—gave their name to the country: "Palestine" is merely the Greek form of "Philistia."

Only once, during the empire of David and Solomon, did the Jews ever control nearly—but not all—the land which is today Palestine. This empire lasted only 70 years, ending in 926 BC. Only 250 years later the Kingdom of Judah had shrunk to a small province around Jerusalem, barely a quarter of modern Palestine.

In 63 BC the Jews were conquered by Roman Pompey, and never again had even the vestige of independence. The Roman Emperor Hadrian finally wiped them out about 135 AD. He utterly destroyed Jerusalem, rebuilt under another name, and for hundreds of years no Jew was permitted to enter it. A handful of Jews remained in Palestine but the vast majority were killed or scattered to other countries, in the Diaspora, or the Great Dispersion. From that time Palestine ceased to be a Jewish country, in any conceivable sense.

This was 1,815 years ago, and yet the Jews solemnly pretend they still own Palestine! If such fantasy were allowed, how the map of the world would dance about!

Italians might claim England, which the Romans held so long. England might claim France, "homeland" of the conquering Normans. And the French Normans might claim Norway, where their ancestors originated. And incidentally, we Arabs might claim Spain, which we held for 700 years.

Many Mexicans might claim Spain, "homeland" of their forefathers. They might even claim Texas, which was Mexican until 100 years ago. And suppose the American Indians claimed the "homeland" of which they were the sole, native, and ancient occupants until only some 450 years ago!

I am not being facetious. All these claims are just as valid—or just as fantastic—as the Jewish "historic connection" with Palestine. Most are more valid.

In any event, the great Moslem expansion about 650 AD finally settled things. It dominated Palestine completely. From that day on, Palestine was solidly Arabic in population, language, and religion. When British armies entered the country during the last war, they found 500,000 Arabs and only 65,000 Jews.

If solid, uninterrupted Arab occupation for nearly 1,300 years does not make a country "Arab", what does?

The Jews say, and rightly, that Palestine is the home of their religion. It is likewise the birthplace of Christianity, but would any Christian nation claim it on that account? In passing, let me say that the Christian Arabs—and there are many hundreds of thousands of them in the Arab World—are in absolute agreement with all other Arabs in opposing the Zionist invasion of Palestine.

May I also point out that Jerusalem is, after Mecca and Medina, the holiest place in Islam. In fact, in the early days of our religion, Moslems prayed toward Jerusalem instead of Mecca.

The Jewish "religious claim" to Palestine is as absurd as the "historic claim." The Holy Places, sacred to three great religions, must be open to all, the monopoly of none. Let us not confuse religion and politics.

We are told that we are inhumane and heartless because do not accept with open arms the perhaps 200,000 Jews in Europe who suffered so frightfully under Nazi cruelty, and who even now—almost three years after war’s end—still languish in cold, depressing camps.

Let me underline several facts. The unimaginable persecution of the Jews was not done by the Arabs: it was done by a Christian nation in the West. The war which ruined Europe and made it almost impossible for these Jews to rehabilitate themselves was fought by the Christian nations of the West. The rich and empty portions of the earth belong, not to the Arabs, but to the Christian nations of the West.

And yet, to ease their consciences, these Christian nations of the West are asking Palestine—a poor and tiny Moslem country of the East—to accept the entire burden. "We have hurt these people terribly," cries the West to the East. "Won’t you please take care of them for us?"

We find neither logic nor justice in this. Are we therefore "cruel and heartless nationalists"?

We are a generous people: we are proud that "Arab hospitality" is a phrase famous throughout the world. We are a humane people: no one was shocked more than we by the Hitlerite terror. No one pities the present plight of the desperate European Jews more than we.

But we say that Palestine has already sheltered 600,000 refugees. We believe that is enough to expect of us—even too much. We believe it is now the turn of the rest of the world to accept some of them.

I will be entirely frank with you. There is one thing the Arab world simply cannot understand. Of all the nations of the earth, America is most insistent that something be done for these suffering Jews of Europe. This feeling does credit to the humanity for which America is famous, and to that glorious inscription on your Statue of Liberty.

And yet this same America—the richest, greatest, most powerful nation the world has ever known—refuses to accept more than a token handful of these same Jews herself!

I hope you will not think I am being bitter about this. I have tried hard to understand that mysterious paradox, and I confess I cannot. Nor can any other Arab.

Perhaps you have been informed that "the Jews in Europe want to go to no other place except Palestine."

This myth is one of the greatest propaganda triumphs of the Jewish Agency for Palestine, the organisation which promotes with fanatic zeal the emigration to Palestine. It is a subtle half-truth, thus doubly dangerous.

The astounding truth is that nobody on earth really knows where these unfortunate Jews really want to go!

You would think that in so grave a problem, the American, British, and other authorities responsible for the European Jews would have made a very careful survey, probably by vote, to find out where each Jew actually wants to go. Amazingly enough this has never been done! The Jewish Agency has prevented it.

Some time ago the American Military Governor in Germany was asked at a press conference how he was so certain that all Jews there wanted to go to Palestine. His answer was simple: "My Jewish advisors tell me so." He admitted no poll had ever been made. Preparations were indeed begun for one, but the Jewish Agency stepped in to stop it.

The truth is that the Jews in German camps are now subjected to a Zionist pressure campaign which learned much from the Nazi terror. It is dangerous for a Jew to say that he would rather go to some other country, not Palestine. Such dissenters have been severely beaten, and worse.

Not long ago, in Palestine, nearly 1,000 Austrian Jews informed the international refugee organisation that they would like to go back to Austria, and plans were made to repatriate them.

The Jewish Agency heard of this, and exerted enough political pressure to stop it. It would be bad propaganda for Zionism if Jews began leaving Palestine. The nearly 1,000 Austrian are still there, against their will.

The fact is that most of the European Jews are Western in culture and outlook, entirely urban in experience and habits. They cannot really have their hearts set on becoming pioneers in the barren, arid, cramped land which is Palestine.

One thing, however, is undoubtedly true. As matters stand now, most refugee Jews in Europe would, indeed, vote for Palestine, simply because they know no other country will have them.

If you or I were given a choice between a near-prison camp for the rest of our lives—or Palestine—we would both choose Palestine, too.

But open up any other alternative to them—give them any other choice, and see what happens!

No poll, however, will be worth anything unless the nations of the earth are willing to open their doors—just a little—to the Jews. In other words, if in such a poll a Jew says he wants to go to Sweden, Sweden must be willing to accept him. If he votes for America, you must let him come in.

Any other kind of poll would be a farce. For the desperate Jew, this is no idle testing of opinion: this is a grave matter of life or death. Unless he is absolutely sure that his vote means something, he will always vote for Palestine, so as not to risk his bird in the hand for one in the bush.

In any event, Palestine can accept no more. The 65,000 Jews in Palestine in 1918 have jumped to 600,000 today. We Arabs have increased, too, but not by immigration. The Jews were then a mere 11 per cent of our population. Today they are one third of it.

The rate of increase has been terrifying. In a few more years—unless stopped now—it will overwhelm us, and we shall be an important minority in our own home.

Surely the rest of the wide world is rich enough and generous enough to find a place for 200,000 Jews—about one third the number that tiny, poor Palestine has already sheltered. For the rest of the world, it is hardly a drop in the bucket. For us it means national suicide.

We are sometimes told that since the Jews came to Palestine, the Arab standard of living has improved. This is a most complicated question. But let us even assume, for the argument, that it is true. We would rather be a bit poorer, and masters of our own home. Is this unnatural?

The sorry story of the so-called "Balfour Declaration," which started Zionist immigration into Palestine, is too complicated to repeat here in detail. It is grounded in broken promises to the Arabs—promises made in cold print which admit no denying.

We utterly deny its validity. We utterly deny the right of Great Britain to give away Arab land for a "national home" for an entirely foreign people.

Even the League of Nations sanction does not alter this. At the time, not a single Arab state was a member of the League. We were not allowed to say a word in our own defense.

I must point out, again in friendly frankness, that America was nearly as responsible as Britain for this Balfour Declaration. President Wilson approved it before it was issued, and the American Congress adopted it word for word in a joint resolution on 30th June, 1922.

In the 1920s, Arabs were annoyed and insulted by Zionist immigration, but not alarmed by it. It was steady, but fairly small, as even the Zionist founders thought it would remain. Indeed for some years, more Jews left Palestine than entered it—in 1927 almost twice as many.

But two new factors, entirely unforeseen by Britain or the League or America or the most fervent Zionist, arose in the early thirties to raise the immigration to undreamed heights. One was the World Depression; the second the rise of Hitler.

In 1932, the year before Hitler came to power, only 9,500 Jews came to Palestine. We did not welcome them, but we were not afraid that, at that rate, our solid Arab majority would ever be in danger.

But the next year—the year of Hitler—it jumped to 30,000! In 1934 it was 42,000! In 1935 it reached 61,000!

It was no longer the orderly arrival of idealist Zionists. Rather, all Europe was pouring its frightened Jews upon us. Then, at last, we, too, became frightened. We knew that unless this enormous influx stopped, we were, as Arabs, doomed in our Palestine homeland. And we have not changed our minds.

I have the impression that many Americans believe the trouble in Palestine is very remote from them, that America had little to do with it, and that your only interest now is that of a humane bystander.

I believe that you do not realise how directly you are, as a nation, responsible in general for the whole Zionist move and specifically for the present terrorism. I call this to your attention because I am certain that if you realise your responsibility you will act fairly to admit it and assume it.

Quite aside from official American support for the "National Home" of the Balfour Declaration, the Zionist settlements in Palestine would have been almost impossible, on anything like the current scale, without American money. This was contributed by American Jewry in an idealistic effort to help their fellows.

The motive was worthy: the result were disastrous. The contributions were by private individuals, but they were almost entirely Americans, and, as a nation, only America can answer for it.

The present catastrophe may be laid almost entirely at your door. Your government, almost alone in the world, is insisting on the immediate admission of 100,000 more Jews into Palestine—to be followed by countless additional ones. This will have the most frightful consequences in bloody chaos beyond anything ever hinted at in Palestine before.

It is your press and political leadership, almost alone in the world, who press this demand. It is almost entirely American money which hires or buys the "refugee ships" that steam illegally toward Palestine: American money which pays their crews. The illegal immigration from Europe is arranged by the Jewish Agency, supported almost entirely by American funds. It is American dollars which support the terrorists, which buy the bullets and pistols that kill British soldiers—your allies—and Arab citizens—your friends.

We in the Arab world were stunned to hear that you permit open advertisements in newspapers asking for money to finance these terrorists, to arm them openly and deliberately for murder. We could not believe this could really happen in the modern world. Now we must believe it: we have seen the advertisements with our own eyes.

I point out these things because nothing less than complete frankness will be of use. The crisis is too stark for mere polite vagueness which means nothing.

I have the most complete confidence in the fair-mindedness and generosity of the American public. We Arabs ask no favours. We ask only that you know the full truth, not half of it. We ask only that when you judge the Palestine question, you put yourselves in our place.

What would your answer be if some outside agency told you that you must accept in America many millions of utter strangers in your midst—enough to dominate your country—merely because they insisted on going to America, and because their forefathers had once lived there some 2,000 years ago?

Our answer is the same.

And what would be your action if, in spite of your refusal, this outside agency began forcing them on you?

Ours will be the same.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Marriott 2012 First Quarter MegaBonus Promotion -- Stay twice, get one free

    Marriott's first quarter MegaBonus promotion is the same they've had for the past several years. For most customers, it's stay two nights, get a free night certificate.
    Now for the fine print. The free night certificates are only good at Category 1-4 hotels. The certificates are only good for six months or so. And you can only earn two of them.
    But for the occasional customer, the Marriott deal is likely as good as it gets. Certainly anyone who stays in hotels at all would be foolish not to plan four Marriott stays from Feb. 1 to April 30, 2012, the promotion dates. Four stays gets two free nights.
    Admittedly the free nights aren't going to be in a top-flight Marriott. With a Cat-4 maximum, you're looking at a Courtyard or Springhill Suites, not a full Marriott. These hotels still often cost $150 per night, making this a great value.
    It should be noted that the Marriott bonus offers vary. High-frequency customers will tend to get bonus points offers. But the "stay two, get one" offer seems to be available to everyone else. It's a great deal. Some have reported success in calling to have their offer changed, so if you don't like your MegaBonus offer, call to ask for a change. Oh, and for those of you who want airline miles instead of the MegaBonus offer, Marriott is offering 2,000 bonus airline miles per stay. Not bad really, but not as good as the 5,000 Delta miles per stay from the summer of 2010. Those miles sent our Lucy to summer camp!
    Visit the website to sign up.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

You heard it hear first: Ron Paul to win Iowa

    You read it here first!
    On Nov. 11 I reported that Newt Gingrich was moving up in the polls and Ron Paul was holding his on. I predicted that Paul might pull a "surprise" in Iowa.
Ron Paul supporters are likely the most devoted out of all the candidates, and my personal opinion is that Paul could surprise everyone with his showing in Iowa. Iowa rewards commitment and effort and I think Paul just might win, although I'm not sure how that is going to lead him to victories in other states.

    Since that post Gingrich has moved up dramatically in the polls. He leads in most states except New Hampshire, and leads Mitt Romney nationally. Recently Paul has shed his fourth-place role and is now in third-place nationally. And in Iowa two recent polls puts him in a strong second place behind Gingrich.
    If the election were to be held tomorrow, I think Paul would take Iowa. It's the intensity factor. I'd give Paul supporters an intensity factor of 9, Gingrich supports a 6 and Romney supporters a 2. These Paul supporters are going to make it to the caucuses and they're going to make it out in big numbers. Gingrich, meanwhile, is still suffering from a poor organization on the ground.
    The real question is what happens after Iowa. Paul is running a very strong third in New Hampshire. My new longshot prediction is that Romney will drop like a stone in New Hampshire after a terrible showing in Iowa and Gingrich will take the state with Paul coming in second. Then comes South Carolina and Florida, where Paul doesn't stand a chance. The best Paul can hope for in these states is second, and that's pushing it. But if Paul can limp into the Nevada and Maine caucuses, who knows.
    Oh, and the man the press just loves? Jon Huntsman may yet have some life in him. His recent one-on-one debate with Newt Gingrich elevated him and revealed him to be not quite the liberal everyone feared. He could be the guy people turn to to get the Gingrich without the Gingrich.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

My spring letter to DM unpublished, my advice unheeded

    I wrote the following letter to the editor to the Daily Mississippian back in the spring. It never ran. In their defense, I thought I was running it near the beginning of a new editor's term, which used to begin April 1. Apparently it arrived near the outgoing editor's end of term and was thrown in the wastebasket. I accompanied this letter with a cover asking that it be published so the staff could get student feedback, so there was no misunderstanding as to it being a private letter. The editor just didn't want the criticism.
    I am constantly disappointed in the Mississippian, in that I think quality should have gone up in tandem with technology over the past 25 years; it seems to have gone down. I exchanged a couple of messages with a staff member earlier this year, I was told that journalism faculty teaching reporting classes are not requiring their students to turn in two stories each week which can then be picked up by the student paper. If that's true, I think we need new faculty.
    As I point out in my unpublished letter, putting out a quality newspaper is easier today. Twenty-five years ago, publishing a "mug" shot might take two hours. The photo would have to be taken, the film developed and dried, the photo enlarged and dried, type modified to leave a hole in exactly the right space, a red-out put down, the photo sized, and so forth. Today a "mug" can be taken with most cell phones, emailed in, edited and on the page in five minutes. It's all done on the computer.
    But enough. Here's my letter, which was never published. I hope some newspaper staff members might make their way to this blog and heed some of the advice.

Dear Editor:
    The staff of The Daily Mississippian works hard. I know, I've been there. You are to be commended for your hard work and your desire to produce a product that serves everyone in the community. With that said, I would like to make some suggestions that in my opinion would improve the newspaper.
    Twenty-five years ago we were still laying out stories with photographic type set in strips. Photos had to be "shot" and pasted in. Including small "head" shots was actually quite difficult. Today, having a great paper design is easy. The Mississippian ought to be head-and-shoulders better in appearance and content than it was years ago, and quite honestly it's not.
    Here are my suggestions on how you can improve the paper:
    • Your coverage of campus events is very weak. Major events come and go and frequently aren't even mentioned in the paper. You need a Campus Calendar that runs every day. It should feature the Brown Bag lunches, the upcoming plays and musical performances, and any other not-for-profit event that is happening on campus or in Oxford. If it's happening it ought to be there. It may take up space, but it will be one of the most read parts of the paper.
    • Your paper needs shorter stories and more of them! Most people are not reading these giant blobs of gray that you are plopping down on the front page, and the ability to write really long stories does not make one a good journalist. You need lots of 6- to 8-inch stories and should limit most stories to 12 column inches. Perhaps one story a day can run longer – up to 24 inches – put please go ahead and jump the thing. The people who are interested will follow the jump, those who aren't will get enough info before the jump.
    Just to give you an example, right now there are ads in the paper for Barksdale Honors College students presenting their honors theses. Perhaps with the assistance of a journalism professor you could have had someone assigned to write a six-inch story with a mug-shot on each of these presentations. No need for an epistle, just a quick story. I assure you that more people would read 10 of these six-inch stores then would read one of the overwritten 60-inch masterpieces that you frequently have.
    • Your front page needs at least four stories every day. If there is a big Mississippi story, you should include it. You should devote a small amount of space inside to state and national news briefs. No need to run long stories – just give your readers the headlines and they can go to the Internet to get more if they want.
    • You need to use photographs more wisely. Put a frame around your photos. Run people small and things big. Lighten them up; they're over-inked. If you quote someone, run a tiny "mug" shot in the story whenever possible (eventually you should have a library of hundreds of "mugs."). Never run a photo without a cutline. Identify people in photos. If you have two photos on a page, make sure one is the dominant photo and is at least twice the size of any other photo.
    • Create multiple points of entry to your stories. That means that in addition to the headline virtually every story should have a roughly 14-point subhead over one column. Use mug shots. Use fact boxes. Use quote-outs. If you can put a dollar bill on the page and it only covers body type, you're doing something wrong.
    • Read and steal ideas from great newspapers. I may hate the politics of the Clarion-Ledger, but it, like almost all Gannett papers, is well designed. Learn from it. Join the Society for News Design and attend some workshops and the annual convention. The next one is in St. Louis this fall. Join and go! The last one I attended was almost 15 years ago, but I was sharing a drink with a fellow named Daryl, and after a while I couldn't stop myself. "Mr. Moen," I told him, "I enjoyed your text book." He thanked me for buying it. We all had a great time. Join this group and you will have the chance to learn from and with the best. Student memberships are only $60.
    • So have a good time. It doesn't always take more work to put out a better product. It just takes better choices. I hope you will consider some of the suggestions I've presented to you; and if not, you still have my best wishes for a great year.
Frank Hurdle
DM Editor, 1987-88

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Oxford Schools have orchestra concert, improvement on display

    My sixth-grade daughter Lucy took part in the Oxford School District Orchestra's annual Christmas concert on Thursday, Dec. 8.
    The concert was really three concerts in one. First up was the Beginning Orchestra, made up mostly of 6th graders with a few 9th graders taking orchestra this year for the first time. Next up was the Intermediate Orchestra, made up of 7th and 8th graders. Last up was the High School Orchestra.
    The beginners started out by playing most or all of the songs they have done this semester. The first song was simply a one-string piece. They finished with Jingle Bells. You could really see the increase in complexity as the semester progressed. I've included a video below of the Beginner's penultimate piece, Ode to Joy. Oh, and if the camera seems to linger on a certain cello player, well that my prerogative.
    Next up was the Intermediate Orchestra. I've included just over a minute of their performance of Pacem Noel, a medley that includes The First Noel.
    Finally came the High School Orchestra. These kids were really doing some playing; they were truly outstanding. Their performance included a Christmas carol sing-along, and they ended with Fandango. Again I only filmed just over a minute of this. I regret not recording the whole piece, because when they finished it was a "wow" moment.
    I've posted three separate videos rather than making one long one. This is to allow those of you who just want to get a quick listen to each group to be able to do so without having to watch a five- or six-minute video. The difference in quality is pretty amazing, and you can see it by watching each clip for 10 or 15 seconds.
    The Oxford School District has a fine music program. The orchestra program is under the direction of Benji Wilson. The chorus is under the direction of Chris Brown. The Middle School band also does an outstanding job.
    Anyway, here's the clips for those of you who might want to take a peek:

Beginning Orchestra, Ode to Joy

7th & 8th Orchestra, Portion of Pacem Noel

High School Orchestra, Portion of Fandango (wish I had recorded all!)

Monday, December 5, 2011

Gingrich criticism shows disdain for working class

    Let’s get something straigt. America’s child labor laws are truly stupid. Children ought to be able to work a few hours a week. It’s good for them and good for society.
    Newt Gingrich, of course, has been coming under fire for saying exactly this. In explaining his position he explained that poor children might be offered jobs working at school, such as helping in the office or assisting the janitor in cleaning the bathrooms.
    Needless to say, the liberals are up in arms. Bathrooms! They say any suggestion of any jobs for children other than that of president of the Coca-Cola Company is demeaning and will subject the children holding these jobs to ridicule. Note that no one is talking about forcing these children to work, only about allowing them to work if they wish to.
    I took over my brother’s afternoon paper route either at age 9 or on my 10th birthday. I remember my horror shortly after noon on Christmas 1970 when my older brother walked into the house with an air of satisfaction and said, “I picked up your papers for you.” I never dreamed there would be paper delivery on Christmas Day!
    I survived. When the weather was truly bad my mother would make my brother drive me on my route, or else she drove me herself. So I didn’t suffer, but I did sometimes get rained on. The notion that allowing children to work will kill them is just a giant load of, well.... But the average liberal today would never allow such a job.
    My paper-route job was actually part of a job chain. My brother had the route before me, and before him Franklin Harrison, and before him Don Dent. I don’t know who had it before him. Each of these three graduated from the paper route to shining shoes at Mr. Walker’s Barber Shop, and then to a job a Peel’s Drug Store. I retired after the paper route, but my brother followed the job chain.
    That meant he shined shoes at Mr. Walker’s Barber Shop. At the end of the day he was expected to sweep and mop, and as I recall was not paid one penny. His services were considered rent payment for the right to shine shoes in the store.
    Imagine, if you will, that Newt Gingrich were to suggest that a poor person might take a job at a barber shop shining shoes. “Shining shoes? How demeaning.” “Sweeping without pay? Slave labor!” You can bet if the liberals had their way jobs like shining shoes at Mr. Walker’s Barber Shop would simply no longer be available (and in fact they aren’t, as people don’t go to barbers much, anymore).
    The outrage of liberals over Gingrich’s comments demonstrates for me the disdain these people have for the working class. These people claim to represent the working class, yet they are outraged over the notion that a student might work as a janitor’s assistant to earn a few extra dollars. The idea of janitorial work is so repugnant to them that they can’t imagine that any person, student or otherwise, would want to do it. This is work Americans Won’t Do; that’s why liberals want to import so many illegal immigrants, which of course drives down wages to make sure that such work is work that American’s Won’t Do.
    I happen to like Newt Gingrich, but I recognize that those who dislike him are not without grounds. It boils down to having a different vision for America.
    Make no mistake, I’d rather be a brain surgeon than a school janitor. And I’d be more than happy to put America’s schoolchildren to work assisting brain surgeons, if they are able. But if not, perhaps they can assist the school janitor, instead.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

No need to worry about Ron Paul's so-called 'extreme' views

    Sometimes people say they like Ron Paul, but some of his views are "too extreme."
    Indeed, Paul is essentially a libertarian. Most Americans have a libertarian streak, but don't take it quite so far as Paul.
    Here's the thing to remember. Paul is running on a platform in which he is seeking to actually weaken the presidency. I've compared it to Mississippi's John Ed Ainsworth's run for state land commissioner, where he pledged to abolish the office if elected. He was and he did. Supposedly he ran on a $10,000 bet claiming that he could get elected with virtually no campaigning simply because his name would be at the top of the ballot.
    People forget that the president's job is simply to carry out the laws and policies passed by Congress. Obama, unfortunately, has ignored the Congress and acted as if he is a legislature of one. For example, when Congress refused to pass the DREAM Act, which would have granted amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants, Obama instructed the INS to operate as if the law had been passed. That's the act of a dictator, not a president.
    Paul wants to weaken the presidency and to return our government to one governed by the Constitution. This means restoring power to the Congress and to the states. His role as president will be little more than a hired hand -- okay, an influential hired hand -- but one who obeys and enforces the laws passed by Congress.
    So no matter view Paul may have that you think is too extreme, you don't have to worry because it won't happen unless 51 senators and 218 House members agree with him. And if that happens, by definition it isn't out of the mainstream.
    One job that Paul takes seriously is that of commander in chief of the armed forces. He is morally bound not to go to war without Congressional authorization. Likewise, he wants to bring our troops home. No other candidate, in either party, supports peace. They all want more war, more death, and more money thrown down the toilet.
    If you don't like Paul, that's another matter; in that case don't vote for him. But if you do like him but have concerns, put those concerns to rest. His whole moral philosophy of governance is based on the duty of the executive to defer to the legislature and to respect the authority of the states. Isn't that what we all want?

Friday, December 2, 2011

Republican Jewish group bans Ron Paul from debate

    In the News of the Disgusting, the Republican Jewish Coalition is holding a debate and everyone is invited except for Ron Paul. The most recent national polls show Paul in third place nationally and in second place position for the kick-off of the all-important Iowa caucuses. Nationally he’s behind Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney, and nobody really likes Mitt Romney. Paul’s support is stout.
    Because if the intensity of his support, I think Paul may win the Iowa caucus. He has more cross-party support than any candidate. Unlike many or most Paul supporters, I also like Newt Gingrich, but I really like Ron Paul and am pulling hard for him.
    But the Republican Jewish Coalition has banned Paul from its debate. They say his views are out of the mainstream of the Republican party, and that to invite him would be the same as inviting Barack Obama (If they really believe that they are smoking crack).     The explanation:
Paul was not invited to attend the RJC’s candidates forum because the organization – as it has stated numerous times in the past – “rejects his misguided and extreme views,” said [RJC Executive Director Matt] Brooks.
    What Matt Brooks is saying is that Paul is opposed to massive foreign aid to Israel and he is opposed to continuing to involve our nation in war after war after war. That’s not acceptable to the American Jewish lobby. It’s extreme to support peace.
    What’s funny is that while Paul may not be popular amongst American Jews, many Jews in Israel would probably support him wholeheartedly. Israeli Jews understand how important it is to achieve peace, and they know that a hawkish, hard line isn’t always the best way to achieve that end. In fact, if you read stories sometimes about the most militant Israeli Jews who are out in their settlements clubbing their Palestinian neighbors, what you will find is that most of them are American Jews or their progeny who have emigrated to Israel.
    So what we have is the Republican Jewish Coalition stating for the record that the only presidential candidate who supports peace is too far outside the mainstream to even be heard. What they are afraid of, of course, is that more people will want peace than will want to go on helping Israel to beat up on the Palestinians and other assorted Arabs. My view is that if Israel wants to beat up on some Arabs they ought to do it on their own. America as a whole is tired of fighting Israel’s proxy wars. I support the right of Israel to be secure in her borders, but what’s been happening for the past dozen years goes far beyond that.
    If the Republican Jewish Coalition wants to exclude Ron Paul that’s their right. But clearly all of us should attempt to divine what the Republican Jewish Coalition supports, and as Americans we should support the opposite.
Let’s face it, the mere fact that these people have banned Ron Paul is proof that they are working against America’s interests, not for them.

The video below is dedicated to the Republican Jewish Coalition:

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Mississippians want to amend constitution to make Col. Reb the Ole Miss mascot

    I came across an interesting item in a Public Policy Polling poll released Nov. 18.
    In a poll that appears to represent a good cross-section of the state (54-46 percent female to male, 66-30-3 white, black, other), Ole Miss comes up as the least popular sports team. No doubt the poor showing this season didn't help. Despite this fact, people from all over the state support amending the state constitution in order to bring Col. Rebel back as the Ole Miss mascot.
    Most people are willing to defer to university administration, but the scandalous, racist banishment of Col. Rebel has just been too much for people to stomach. So, folks, find a petition to get this on the ballot, sign it, and then vote next year to get Col. Reb restored to his rightful position so we can start winning some football games again!

Q5 Is your favorite college sports team in the state
Mississippi, Mississippi State, or Southern
Mississippi ..................... 21%
Mississippi State ............... 36%
Southern Mississippi ............ 27%
Not sure ........................ 17%

Q6 Would you support or oppose a Constitutional
Amendment to designate Colonel Reb as the
official mascot of the University of Mississippi?
Support ......................... 52%
Oppose .......................... 22%
Not sure ........................ 26%

Oh, and by the way, don't you hate it when pollsters refer to Ole Miss as "Mississippi." If they don't want to use Ole Miss, then say the whole thing, "University of Mississippi."

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Newt: Secure the border first

    Next Gingrich recently outlined his immigration plan. He's under fire for suggesting that a few long-time illegal immigrants not be immediately expelled from the country. My attitude is that everyone ought to be allowed to apply to stay. Those who are a net asset to our country should be allowed to stay. Those who are a drain should be sent back home.
    Newt's plan has one thing right. Secure the border first! Everyone talks about the need to stimulate the economy and create jobs. Okay, let's do it by hiring people to build an absolutely impenetrable fence on our southern border. It won't stop all illegal immigration, but it will help.
    Here's Newt's plan, as quoted in Politico:
First, he would build a fence along the nation’s border with Mexico that would be completed by January 1, 2014. He would suspend environmental impact studies and other regulations to speed the development of the fence. If needed, he would send federal employees from Washington to border states to assist in the construction, he said.

Second, he would make English the official language of the country.

“Third, we establish an understanding of American history as it relates to citizenship and we apply to it the children living here,” Gingrich said.

Spokesman R.C. Hammond said that piece of the proposal had nothing to do with recommendations by some tea party groups that the 14th Amendment of the Constitution does not guarentee citizenship children of illegal immigrants.

Instead, Hammond said, it was part of Gingrich’s general push to ensure that Americans are aware of the nation’s history.

Fourth, Gingrich said he would revise the current visa system. He said currently it take too long, is too complicated and too expensive to obtain a visa to do business or be a tourist in the United States.

Fifth, he would make deportation easier. As an example, he said members of the El Salvadorian gang “MS-13” should be subject to immediate deportation.

The sixth part would include changing the guest worker program, which allows foreigners to come to the United States legally to work temporarily. He said a company like a credit card company should be responsible for running the program instead of the federal government, saying it would make it a “very sophisticated, very clean program.”

The seventh would be his approach to letting people in the country for decades stay here, under select circumstances.
    Any immigration policy is better than what we have now, so long as we secure the boarder first.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Unclean! Unclean!

    I just got back from a one-week cruise, which I took with my extended family. It was a gift to all of us from my Dad. I hope to write a review soon.
    Alas, I contracted some type of virus about mid-way though the trip and spent a good bit of time in bed. I would make it down to dinner but then retreat back to bed. Still had a good time, though.
    I'm actually feeling a bit worse since arriving home. On top of the virus I've got landsickness. There really is such a thing, and for some it can take a while to go away. I've had to be out and about, and every time someone tries to shake my hand I just jump back and say, "I'm sick." Kind of like the lepers in the Biblical days, yelling, "Unclean, unclean."

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Penn State coaches not only ones ignoring sex abuse

    Everyone is sick and disgusted with the stories coming out of Penn State. People want to know how a college president, athletic director and head football coach could suspect or know about child sexual abuse and do nothing. But it’s really not limited to top officials at Penn State; apparently dozens of people knew what Jerry Sandusky was up to, but he was such a jolly good fellow that no one wanted to call his hand on it. (Sandusky, by the way, has not been convicted of anything, but by his own admission has engaged in conduct that is way beyond the pale).
    The fact is, though, that this type of things happens again and again. It happened with the Catholic Church. In defense of the Catholic Church, at one time it was believed that these priests might be “cured.” We now know that the only reliable “cure” for those who have taken advantage of children is to make sure they have no future contact with children.
    Whatever mistakes the Catholic Church has made in the past, it is to be lauded for its current efforts to prevent abuse. My children attended Catholic school for several years in Kentucky, and a few years ago every parent who was to volunteer in any fashion with the school had to complete the Catholic Church’s “Virtus” program (not sure if that’s supposed to be pronounced like it’s spelled or like “virtues.”
    I’m not going to go into great detail about the program. It’s designed to help people understand the signs of child sexual abuse. The most important thing is that adults don’t need to be spending a lot of time alone with children and that things which look suspicious are not to be ignored. There's no need to make false accusations, but if a behavior is causing concern that behavior needs to end. The Virtus program provides a set of guidelines for relations between adults and children. One of the most important rules is that an adult who refuses to obey the rules, by that very action, endangers children. Scouting has also had sexual abuse problems in the past and has in recent years adopted stringent safeguards designed to protect young people.
    Unfortunately, all the prevention programs in the world aren’t going to do any good if sexual predators are allowed to be around children while those in authority look the other way. That's what happened at Penn State and is happening all over the country.
    The Catholic Church isn’t the only church with a sexual abuse problem. It's as big or a bigger problem in Protestant churches. The Baptist Church, for example, has some of the same problems and has done exactly the same types of things that the Catholics did, namely looking the other way and covering for abusing clergy.
    Even worse, some Baptist leaders have attacked the victims of sexual abuse and their advocates. Former Southern Baptist Convention President Paige Patterson, now president of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, attacked a victim’s support group as “evil-doers.” After Bellevue Baptist Church pastor Steve Gaines learned that an associate pastor -- whose job included counseling victims of sex abuse -- had in fact had sex with his own teen-age son for 12 to 18 months, he kept the man on staff. Apparently he concluded that since the sexual assaults had occurred more than 15 years before it was none of the church's business. The abused son didn't feel that way, nor did many of Bellevue's members, who Gaines labeled "troublemakers."
    Gaines, by the way, is an apostle of Rick Warren, who urges pastors, once hired, to seize absolute control of their churches, while marginalizing those who oppose them. Gaines' tolerance for sex abuse and his willingness to attack those who oppose them has certainly succeeded in running off lots of opposition, but I don't see how emptying Bellevue's church pews actually serves God.
    One Bellevue member who has been upset about what has gone on in that church -- and other churches, has a blog devoted to publicizing wrongdoing. For example, Bellevue finally fired the minister accused of having sex with his son; despite massive publicity another area church, The Warren Community Church in Somerville, Tenn., named his as a Trustee and proudly sang his praises in their newsletter. It's telling that the church proclaims itself a "Purpose Driven Church," and is quite possibly named after Rick Warren. Yuck all around!
    Child sexual abuse isn't just a Catholic problem, a Baptist problem or a Penn State problem. It's going to be a problem whenever children are placed in regular solitary contact with adults. It's going to be made far worse when these adults are authority figures whose authority is not subject to question. When it comes to protecting children, no one should have so much authority that they aren't subject to question -- and everyone should be required to follow rules established to protect children.
    The Catholic Church has been rightly condemned for some of its past actions concerning sex abuse. In my opinion they are leading the way in education and prevention today. This isn't to say there aren't still problems, but at least the Catholic Church is attempting to address these problems. Other churches and organizations would do well to examine and emulate what the Catholics are doing in the way of prevention and education.
    Today a few Penn State leaders are accused of wrongdoing, but there simply are lots of people who knew what was going on and did nothing. Nobody wanted to deal with a big, awful mess. But what's happened at Penn State is no different from what's happening all over the country. Doing nothing isn't the right choice when confronted with child sexual abuse, but it's a choice being made by lots of people, not just football coaches.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Newt Gingrich moving up and Ron Paul holding his own; life is good

    On Oct. 20 I listed "My GOP Presidential Picks, From Best to Worst. I listed my favorite candidate as Ron Paul, with Newt Gingrich coming in a strong second.
    Of Gingrich I said, "The Republican field is weak, and he has just been there week after week, a steady, strong, and incredibly smart and informed candidate." Now with Rick Perry's "Duh" moments and Herman Cain's Bimbo eruptions, Newt is starting to come charging up in the polls -- all on a shoestring budget.
    The latest national poll by CBS still shows Herman Cain barely in the lead, with Gingrich and Romney tied for second with 15 percent each. It's a real improvement for Gingrich. In Ohio Gingrich is in second place behind Cain and in Mississippi Gingrich is currently the favorite among Republicans, leading Cain 28-25 percent, with Perry at 14% and Romney at 12%. With Cain and Perry sinking fast, Gingrich just might sweep the South.
    Ron Paul, meanwhile, comes in at about 10 percent nationally, and generally comes in fourth place in opinion polling. You wouldn't know it from his press coverage, though -- the press pretends he doesn't exist. Ron Paul supporters are likely the most devoted out of all the candidates, and my personal opinion is that Paul could surprise everyone with his showing in Iowa. Iowa rewards commitment and effort and I think Paul just might win, although I'm not sure how that is going to lead him to victories in other states.
    With Gingrich moving up strongly in the polls and Ron Paul holding his own, I'm feeling pretty good about the way things are headed. Oh, and Rick Perry seems to have gone down in flames. Now that makes me feel even better!

I learned a little bit about my Uncle Paul today from government website

    With today being Veterans Day, I decided to look up the official government burial information on my uncle, John Paul Hurdle, who was killed in the run-up to D-Day. I think he was an Army Air Corp navigator.
    The site, for those of you who might want to look up the burial site for relatives buried abroad is
    According to the site, Uncle Paul was killed May 25, 1944. A much older friend told me that he was aged 10 or 12 and friends with the son of the man who owned the telegraph office and that he was there when the telegram came in to my grandfather. He said they called first and talked to my grandfather and told them they had a telegram with bad news about Paul. They then delivered the telegram. My grandfather was on the porch waiting and crying, like so many parents did during that war.
    About five years after the war a friend of Paul's visited my grandparents. He was apparently traveling the country visiting the families of his fallen friends. He said my uncle helped someone get out of the plane after it began going down, and that he then jumped, but that he was shot while his parachute was still in the air.
    I was unaware until I saw the government site that my uncle, in addition to the Purple Heart, had been awarded the Air Medal with 4 Oak Leaf Clusters. As I understand it, the Air Medal was awarded after a minimum of five air missions, as was each cluster. So my uncle had a minimum of 25 air missions before he was killed.
    According to the government site my uncle was a technical sergeant with the 562nd Bomber Squadron, 388th Bomber Group, Heavy. He is buried at Normandy American Cemetery
Colleville-sur-Mer, France; I hope to visit some day.

    On a more humorous note, my grandmother was a Five-Star Momma; five of her children enlisted during World War II. My father was sent home from training camp because of a bad heart, with instructions to take it easy because he likely didn't have long to live. He was given a package of medical records to take with him to assist his doctors in his future care.
    After a few months of his laying in a hammock my grandfather decided to consult a local doctor. The doctor looked over the medical records, listened to my Dad's heart, and said, "I'm afraid it's true, Jesse." Doctors didn't have much training back then, and this local doctor surely wasn't going to contradict the government!
    After a few months more of my Dad lying in a hammock my grandfather took him to see Dr. Stern at the Stern Clinic in Memphis. Dr. Stern checked out my Dad and looked over the records and said, "These aren't your son's records. I'm sure some poor soldier has had a heart attack by now, but your son is just fine." My father's days of sitting in the hammock were over.
    Dr. Stern is long retired and died in 2006, but his clinic survives with almost 20 doctors on staff. My dad, who is 88, returned to the clinic a couple of years ago as his heart is weakening with age. They asked him if he had ever visited the clinic before.
    "Yes," my Dad said.
    They then wanted to know what doctor Dad had seen.
    "Dr. Stern."
    I don't think they get that answer too often.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

All women don't have a constitutional right to abortion, but rape victims do

    Amid all the recent debate on Prop 26, it's worth noting that many of the supporters of this amendment did maintain that the use of contraception such as IUDs and "morning-after" birth control pills was equivalent to murder because it caused an embryo, or person, to be unable to attach to the uterine wall.
    I disagree, but I'll leave this alone for now to note that a large portion of those who are opposed to abortion believe it should be illegal in the case of rape. These people have no problem with forcing a rape victim to bear her attacker's child.
    It's barbaric. And while I've long maintained that I don't believe there is a Ninth Amendment Constitutional right to abortion on demand, I do believe there is a 13th Amendment right to abortion in cases where a woman is raped or unable to give consent.
    What's the difference? The difference is that our laws -- our reservoir or public morality -- traditionally don't recognize a right of rescue unless one's own actions have made that rescue necessary.
    For example, suppose that I am alone on a lake in my anchored ski boat, and one other person is also in the lake in a small fishing boat. Suppose that person capsizes and begins yelling for help. Am I legally obligated to assist that person? The answer is no, I have no duty to random strangers in need of help.
    Now let us supposed that I zip past a a fishing boat in my ski boat and cause it to capsize. Do I now have a duty? The answer is yes, my voluntary actions have endangered the life of another and I now have a duty to rescue that person. A failure to act is manslaughter.
    As a practical matter, most people will attempt to rescue others in need. But the common law recognizes that it may not compel people to essentially be slaves to the needs of others. A dollar a day may be enough to save the life of some starving Third World child, but the law does not compel me to mail a check each month.
    When women get pregnant, it is ordinarily the result of voluntary action. A strong argument can be made against abortion on the grounds that a woman's voluntary action has caused her unborn child to be in need of rescue, and now she has a duty to rescue that child by carrying to term.
    When women get pregnant from rape there is no voluntary action to create a duty to the unborn child. As such there is no legal duty to rescue and the woman has every right to separate herself from this unwanted person, just as we all have the right to refuse to send a dollar a day to feed starving children.
    Forcing a rape victim or a woman who has not given legal consent to intercourse to carry a child to term violates the 13th Amendment prohibition of involuntary servitude. Even if we accept that life begins at conception, when a rape victim gets an abortion it's not murder, it's self defense.
    There's nothing wrong with forcing someone to involuntarily serve another if that person's voluntary actions have made that service necessary. But to force an innocent rape victim to bear the child of another is slavery.
    I've long opposed Roe v. Wade. It was a terrible, poorly reasoned court decision that simply fabricated a constitutional right. I believe states have the right, should they exercise it, to ban abortions in cases where voluntary actions result in pregnancy. That doesn't mean I'm opposed to abortion; it means I'm in favor of state sovereignty, even when my state or other states may pass laws with which I don't agree.
    But state sovereignty doesn't extend to permitting slavery or involuntary servitude. As such women who don't consent to sexual intercourse have an absolute 13th Amendment right to abortion. They may choose not to exercise it, but it must be their choice, not that of society.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Shephard's Pie is quick, easy, good, and cheap. Need I say more?

    I cooked Shephard's Pie for the kids tonight. Ash would be happy if I cooked this every night. Lucy says she doesn't want it so often; I need to be careful that it doesn't fall into the hamburger and spaghetti category.
    You may remember that I posted a while back on Menu Ideas to Please Kids and Protect Wallet. One of the menu items I mentioned was Shephard's Pie.
    I have a little Four-Way test that I use when it comes to cooking at home -- sort of a twist on the Rotary Club version.
First, Is it Good?
Second, Is it Quick?
Third, Is it Easy to Make?
Fourth, Is it Cheap?
    Shephard's Pie passes the Four Way test with flying colors.

Easy Shephard's Pie (Serves 4, Adjust accordingly)
1 lb. ground chuck, round or sirloin
1 small onion
1 small can sliced mushrooms or sliced fresh mushrooms
Some carrots (optional)
8 oz. shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 can cream of mushroom soup
A few slices bacon (optional)
Some minced garlic and other seasonings
1 package powdered mashed potatoes.

Chop an onion fine. If you wish you may cook three slices of bacon and set aside, then use bacon grease to brown onions. Otherwise just use a tablespoon of oil. Add carrots. If using fresh mushrooms add them now. Saute until onions are soft. If using canned mushrooms add them now and saute a bit more.

You may remove vegetables from pan or just push to one side and add meat. Brown meat. When meat is about two-thirds done add some minced garlic if you wish and stir all together and let meat finish cooking. After meat is brown drain.

Place meat mixture in a baking dish and mix in one can of cream of mushroom soup. This will mix better if you don't let the meat cool too much.

Prepare one pouch of mashed potatoes according to package directions, but add about one-half cup additional water. After the potatoes sit for a few minutes they will be runny. Add four ounces shredded cheddar and stir; this will stiffen them right up. Spoon and spread potato mixture over the ground beef mixture as evenly as possible. Grate a little pepper over the top and add other seasonings if desired, but don't add salt. Sprinkle top with four ounces shredded cheddar and crumbled bacon if you used any.

Cook at 300 degrees for about 45 minutes. Yum!

Cost analysis: The most expensive item is the beef, of course. If you shop the old meat rack or sales you ought to be able to get this for $2, otherwise figure on paying $3. The onion costs about 40 cents and the mushrooms 70 cents (don't use fresh unless they are just sitting around!). The few carrots, if used, add perhaps 50 cents. Shredded cheese was recently on sale for $3 per pound and I bought 10 pounds, so figure $1.50 for the cheese. Cream of mushroom soup always goes on sale at Thanksgiving or Christmas and I always buy about 50 cans at 50 cents each, so 50 cents on the soup. Bacon, if used, 50 cents. I bought a bunch of two-pouch boxes of mashed potatoes for a buck apiece sometime back, but since I haven't seen them on sale lately I'll figure a pouch of potatoes at 80 cents.
Meat $2.50
Onion .40
Mushrooms .70
Carrots if used .50
Cheese $1.50
Potato pouch .80
Cream of mushroom soup .50

Total cost of meal = $6.90

To save money or suit your taste you can omit some or all of the cheese.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

So who took down Gadaffi's website -- and who ordered his murder?

    There's no question that America's former enemy Muammar Gaddafi, who Barack Obama and his NATO allies murdered without cause, was a strange bird. He viewed himself a a philosopher king and issued proclamations on everything from the ownership of machine guns, to the need for a single state of Israeltine, to his proposed solution to the Kashmir problem.
    Some of his opinion pieces are a bit disjointed. Perhaps that is due to his own disjointed thinking or due to problems with translating the articles from Arabic; probably both. But his writings are not necessarily anti-Western and he was strongly opposed to Islamic extremism.
    Although Gaddafi's website has been taken down, the website has preserved part of it. Those who denounce him as a "mad dog" ought to at least read some of his opinions. I can't help but wonder why his original website has been taken down as old websites tend to stay up for years. Who ordered its removal?
    For example, in November 2002 Gaddafi wrote or delivered an address on why the European Union shouldn't admit Turkey to membership, entitled Turkey, Europe and the Bin-Ladenists. In this piece he denounces Islamic extremism, capital punishment and Islamic justice, i.e. the cutting off of hands. I quote from Gaddafi's column:
The risk that Europe cannot condone nor take is to have Turkey as its Trojan horse.

The problem does not lie with the older generation of Turkish politicians who continue to hold Ataturk and his teachings sacred. The problem is with the new generation. The youth who have access to the satellite channels and the internet, are learning lessons from the scholars of the Islamic World and from Bin-Laden personally every minute of the day. That influence cannot be prevented.

What if thousands of young Turks get their world view from Bin Laden and his followers or from Mullah Omar and his group? I say “if” just to soften the blow. They will consider Europe as a land of unbelief that deserves nothing but forceful conquest. They will not stop at the gates of Vienna like the Ottomans did. They will wish to cross the Atlantic.

They will follow the example of Uqba ibn Nafie, the Arab commander, who stopped at the Atlantic coast and addressed the ocean saying:” If I knew that there are people living on your other coast, I would cross you to conquer them and force them to adhere to Islam”. Uqba did not [know] of the existence of a continent called America beyond the ocean. Those young people know very well what exists beyond the Atlantic.

Those young people oppose the abolition of capital punishment because it is mentioned in the Koran. Moreover, they maintain that a thief’s hand must be amputated as ordained by God. Adulterers must receive a hundred lashes without mercy. To them, these are the punishments established by God in his Book.

They do not, and will not accept the ban on parties with an Islamic name in Turkey while those with Christian names are not banned in the rest of Europe. [Blogger note: A good point which I've never seen made before.]

The new Islamic extremists, who will come to power in Turkey and will control its streets, will not accept joining an entity whose constitution does not mention the Islamic Sharia or the divinely-ordained punishments. Believing that contraception and family planning are sinful, they will ban them completely. [Blogger note 2: Is he talking about Turkey or Mississippi?] Thus, they could very well have the majority in the European Parliament. With polygamy, Turkey could become more populous than any European country.

The Turkish Islamists, supported by Al-Qaeda, plan to establish Islamic states in Albania and Bosnia. Europe, the land of unbelief, will thus face the pressure of a new Muslim European front that enjoys the backing of the whole Muslim World. Europe will have to adhere to Islam or pay the tribute. Islamists consider this to be their duty because they see it written in the Koran. These ideas might seem ridiculous or laughable to some. However, to Islamists it is their God-given mission.
    Whatever Gadaffi's past crimes were (for which he paid $2.7 billion in reparations), does this sound like a man who has it in for the West? A pan-Arab anti-colonialist, absolutely, but not anti-Western.
    When Gadaffi's refers to Ataturk he refers to the father of modern Turkey, who insisted on a purely secular state which was strictly neutral in regards to religion. The Turkish military has repeatedly forced the government to toe the secular line. For example, as recently as 1997 the army forced an Islamist government out of power. But in July of this year all of the top military generals resigned en masse, effectively surrendering that country to a future of state-sanctioned Islam. It won't happen overnight, but in the next 20 years we will see a Turkey that is far more like Egypt or Saudi Arabia and far less like Italy or Austria. Gadaffi warned us.
    It's interesting that we claimed to have attacked and murdered Gadaffi because he was using too much force in putting down civil unrest that in all likelihood was fomented by the CIA. Several hundred people were killed prior to NATO's attack, and I'm sure Gadaffi has killed plenty more over the years. I have no illusions that his first priority was to remain in power by any means necessary, just like the rulers of virtually any country. By American standards he was ruthless; by Saudi or Syrian standards he was a powder-puff.
    Although NATO was not authorized to seek regime change or to take offensive action, it did, attacking loyalist troops merely defending themselves. Today numerous towns are completely empty, their citizens beaten and murdered for supporting Gadaffi, and told not to return. For example, Tawarga, once a city of 10,000, is empty and ransacked in retaliation for its citizens' support of Gadaffi. Other cities face the same fate, which is odd given that the American propaganda machine would have had us believe that each and every Libyan citizen hated and despised the man. Remember, the first casualty of war is the truth. If our government says it, it is likely a lie. Many, perhaps even most, Libyans loved Gadaffi until the bombs started falling.
    I don't know why the United States attacked Libya. Perhaps we just needed a military base. Supposedly Gadaffi had been publicly advocating a devolution of power from the Saudi monarchy to tribal leaders. Can't make the Saudis mad now, can we? But I think he did so at the 2009 Arab Doha summit, detailed in this news article, Muammar Gaddafi accuses Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah of lying at Arab summit. The video of the event, which I've posted below, is actually far more entertaining.
    I just find it interesting that Gadaffi saw what was happening in Turkey 10 years ago and warned the West of the dangers that lay ahead -- and of his strong opposition to Islamic extremism. He publicly stood down the monarch of the most repressive, anti-woman regime in the world from which most anti-American terrorist funding comes, and for his effort Obama and his NATO goons murdered the man, his children and grandchildren in cold blood.
    I guess we didn't want to anger our Saudi masters.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Longtime sportswriter Caldwell says Dan Jones needs to go

    Longtime sports writer and former sports editor for the DeSoto Times-Tribune Ron Caldwell called for Ole Miss Chancellor Dan Jones' replacement in a column that appeared in the Friday, Oct. 28 edition.
    The column, entitled "Back to the Future for Ole Miss," begins as follows:
I have covered Ole Miss sports for more than 35 years. I received an undergraduate and graduate degree from Ole Miss and spent hard-earned money doing it. I worked at Ole Miss in media and public relations.

I have out-lasted football coaches Johnny Vaught, Billy Kinard, Ken Cooper, Steve Sloan, Billy Brewer, Joe Lee Dunn (sort of), Tommy Tuberville, David Cutcliffe and Ed Orgeron.

I have out-lasted chancellors J.D. Williams, Porter Fortune, Gerald Turner and Robert Khayat.

Ditto for athletic directors Johnny Vaught, Warner Alford, Pete Boone (round one) and John Schaffer.

And, let’s not even mention basketball and baseball coaches.

I have also out-lasted Johnny Reb (in a real Confederate outfit), Colonel Rebel and the ill-fated Traveler the horse, as well as the Rebel flag, “Dixie,” “From Dixie with Love,” cars tailgating in the Grove, panty raids and streaking.

I have ranged from the inconvenience of almost no restaurants, motels and stores to today’s horrendously, contemptible over-commercialization.

So, what’s the point other than to demonstrate that I’m old?

After seeing it almost all at Ole Miss and experiencing almost every conceivable emotion as a Rebel, I have some ideas of what needs to happen at “paradise on earth.”

First, Dan Jones needs to go as Chancellor. . . more
    You can click on the title above to read the rest of the column. I should note that Caldwell is not alone in suggesting that Jones simply is not up to the job of Chancellor of a major university. Many, if not most, Ole Miss alumni feel that he is way over his head.
    Jones has no one but himself to blame for this mess. It was he who chose to let the Pete Boone situation fester, and to send out an outrageous letter filled with falsehoods and name-calling. It was he who has taken part in public meetings where those who dared to disagree with him were slandered. Most people simply find this behavior repugnant and want no affiliation with a chancellor who is going to behave in such an uncivil manner.
    It takes courage to speak truth to power, but Ron Caldwell has done so. Dan Jones can turn things around both for Ole Miss and for himself. But to do that he has to set his ego aside and start listening to the great mass of alumni and students that he is supposed to serve. If he just can't or won't do this, then he does need to go.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Vote NO on Initiative 26: Terrible amendment no solution to terrible Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade

    Mississippians will vote on three constitutional amendments in the upcoming November election. Two of these amendments are great; the third is sheer jackassery.
    I’ll leave the two amendments I support to others. I just want to talk about Initiative 26, the “Personhood Amendment.” This amendment is going to pass with a huge margin; it is a disaster.
    There is no question that Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973), is one of the most poorly reasoned acts of judicial activism in the past 100 years. Prior to Roe, the nation as a whole was moving towards the notion that abortion should be legal in at least some circumstances. In a few short years abortion had gone from being illegal in every state to legal in 10.
    After Roe people who had never given abortion a second thought suddenly were against it – as well they should have been. It’s not only an issue of life, but an issue of state sovereignty, which involves millions of lives.
    I support the repeal of Roe v. Wade. It’s terrible law. The federal government has no business sticking its nose into the business of the sovereign states. I support most efforts to frustrate the implementation of Roe. Now make no mistake, were Roe to be repealed tomorrow I would support some legal abortion in Mississippi (I do believe a woman who has been raped or who is not able to give legal consent has a federal right to an abortion under the 13th Amendment, but that there is no general right to abortion on demand under the 9th Amendment as provided for in Roe). My guess is that my position would lose, particularly given past federal interference in our affairs. But I don’t mind losing, so long as we as Mississippians are allowed to make the laws under which we live.
    Now we come to the “Personhood Amendment.” In order to attack Roe, abortion opponents have been willing to do things that will throw our entire legal system out of kilter.
    The Personhood Amendment is going to declare every embryo a person from the moment of conception. Virtually no rational person considers an embryo to be a human being.
    It will almost certainly put a stop to in vitro fertilization, where several eggs are fertilized so that a few may be implanted. Yet in vitro fertilization actually promotes life, because without it many children would not be born.
    And if we are now to declare all embryos persons, does that mean that next friends will be able to bring false imprisonment suits on behalf of all the frozen embryos of Mississippi? Will we need to appoint a guardian ad litem to every fertilized egg, and have a court hearing to hear arguments of whether or not it is in the best interests of the embryo to be implanted or not?
    What are we to do about women whose life is endangered by their pregnancy. Note that I said that their life was actually endangered, not merely their “health,” the federal catch-all. Will a doctor be able to perform an abortion to save the life of the mother? What if there is an estranged husband who orders the doctor not to perform the abortion, even if the pregnancy will almost certainly kill his wife? Doctors shouldn’t have to put up with this, and it is going to affect all aspects of medical care that we receive.
    And what about inheritance? If an embryo is declared a person, then when a pregnant woman dies her fetus will inherit a portion of her estate, throwing a real monkey wrench into our current system of descent and distribution. It’s quite possible that some cad who refuses to marry a girl could nevertheless inherit through a month-old fetus. The nutcases out there may not have a problem with this, but I do. And the above scenario only scratches the surface of the wills and estates problems that this amendment will cause.
    The fact is that the Personhood Amendment will likely outlaw various forms of contraception. For example, IUDs often work by preventing a fertilized egg from implanting on the uterine wall. Once this amendment passes, any woman having sex while wearing an IUD will be guilty of attempted murder.
    A lot of people who support this amendment give a wink and a nod and say it’s only going to be used to outlaw abortion. Well I’ve got news for you. Laws are made up of words and the laws mean what the words say. It’s a sorry judge indeed who doesn’t enforce the laws as they are written, whether he agrees with them or not.
    There are a lot of poorly educated preachers going around supporting this amendment, and I’m sure they will carry the day. But friends, may I suggest when it comes to the issues of law and medicine that you might listen to lawyers and doctors. They actually know something about this, and they know this amendment is a terrible law.
    Please vote NO on Initiative 26. And should anyone supporting this amendment want to pass an initiative seeking a national constitutional amendment repealing Roe v. Wade, I’m all in.