Fireworks

Another 4th of July has come and gone. One more Municipal Band concert to go until the members can squeeze in other summer activities on Tuesday nights. Just think, 97 summers of Municipal Band concerts. All the turnover of band-mates and appreciative listeners over 97 years reminds me of a good sourdough.

What a great community we have here. But we need to remember that there are other great communities just like ours across the world. All of them are being assaulted by people who claim the other communities are seeking to take advantage of them. The reality is that we are all just trying to get by.

After the concert came a fantastic fireworks display. Thanks to some other community halfway around the world in China we were entertained for a time while thoughts were going through our heads about how exceptional we are.

We should take a step back and shoot for some objectivity. We spend $409 billion per year in complying with the federal income tax. Eight point nine billion hours are spent doing something besides growing food or building roads. The tax code contains 2.4 million words. Those numbers don’t even account for the taxes paid in this system, and they have little to do with enabling Americans to get around and conduct the business of life.

Senator Charles Grassley had a column in the Hampton Chronicle recently explaining how hard it is to maintain payment limits according to income in the farm bill. He opened the column by claiming farmers need the safety net.

Grassley is a good example of every representative we have in Washington. He watches out for his constituents by grabbing as big a piece of the pie as he can. They all do, so they can get elected.

Their goals are not a country where ambition and creativity can improve Americans’ lot in life. Being elected is paramount. They can’t carry out the good deeds promised so many years ago if they aren’t elected. So, elect them.

I’m not saying all of this just to get it off my chest, but to point out a cause. The cause is dishonesty rewarded with getting elected. Our representatives take an oath to preserve and protect the Constitution. But it is explicitly forbidden for them to enact a bill like the Farm Bill.

Mr. Grassley explained to me once about how all these tasks taxpayers fund are there because the courts incrementally allowed more and more government based on precedent. That is, a case is not judged by its standing constitutionally, but by how previous cases were judged. Once a farmer is helped to weather a tough time it eventually leads to a single mother working at McDonald’s handing money over to a billionaire farmer she doesn’t even know.

Compare that to my donation to the fireworks display going to a factory worker in China.

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Watchdog Wanted

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Why would we (you and me) want to starve children and level cities? It is apparent that the people who make it into government positions are loyal to someone other than the American people. Are our so-called allies running the show?

An ally would be a country who contributes mutually to the safety and security of U.S. citizens here. Can you name one? Explain how that works. For example: A Houthi rebel from Northern Yemen, if he isn’t starved or blown up by the Sunni coalition (that weirdly includes the United States), would come over here and put headscarves on the ladies downtown? Nobody would seriously consider them a threat. The Saudis certainly are not a real ally. In fact several of them were seen being spirited away after the 9/11 attacks when the rest of the country was in lock-down.

Last week in the Hampton Chronicle Senator Charles Grassley was describing the difficulty of limiting farm program payments by income. I’ve always appreciated his attempts at watchdoggedness. We need more.

Then I heard the news that the Senate has passed the National Defense Authorization Act for 2019. This is a bill that our senators Joni Ernst and watchdog Charles Grassley voted for. Try to put these numbers into perspective.

The bill authorizes $716 billion for the fiscal year. Numbers like these are just a blur to most people, so look at it this way. Just the increase of $82 billion beats the entire military budget of Russia, which is $61 billion. Just the increase for two years eclipses China’s entire annual military budget ($150 billion).

Let’s take a look at the allies who are routinely trotted out as necessary for our security. The allies in the Middle East were valuable for a time until American ingenuity found foreign oil to be unnecessary. Now the best they can do is claim that the Israelis are “God’s chosen people.” How very fortunate we are to live in a country where nobody is prevented from going over and helping those who they wish to help. So, go ahead people. To saddle the American people with that cost and the myriad associated costs such as retaliation is unfair to taxpayers who see our government as limited to being just our government.

Japan and Korea can fend for themselves against China and, once again, China will never have the ability to conquer and maintain the U.S. as a Chinese colony; at least until private gun confiscation is complete.

Allies? Ha! We’ve carried the defense load for Korea, the NATO countries, and Japan to the extent that the wealth they’ve saved on military expenditures has enabled them to unfairly compete with American workers in world markets. Then we think protectionist tariffs are necessary, further distorting the world economy.

We have about 200,000 troops deployed on 800 bases in 177 countries around the world. As we drive through Mason City and see help wanted signs almost outnumbering businesses, we have to wonder: Where are the watchdogs? Where are the protesters?

Every alliance we have has enemies that weren’t necessarily ours until we took sides. Our out-sized military presence around the world makes us less safe. It robs our country of innovative minds and skilled workers. It also depletes funds that could have gone for a cancer cure or clean energy.

To question and oppose the wasteful military behemoth is not anti-military. It is showing respect for the men and women who could do the job much more efficiently. To defend our actual borders instead of the world is doable. Defending the world at Americans’ expense insults Americans and abuses our servicemen.

Mr. Grassley’s vote for this authorization shows how difficult it is to be a watchdog and still play the congressional game. The Founders knew this when they specifically wrote that Congress may only do the tasks listed in the Constitution. Things are truly out of our hands and Mr. Grassley is only an actor in a puppet show.

Identity Crisis

Muscular Bride Behind the Scenes

A Nazi walks into a Jewish delicatessen in New York. He has a swastika tattooed on his forehead. He says, “I’ll have a pastrami on rye, some chips, and a Kosher pickle.” The owner of the deli is working the counter that day. His grandparents were both gassed at Auschwitz.

Should the owner be allowed to kick the Nazi out of his deli?

The law is a warped example of how far we have strayed from the original intent of a country where individual achievement reaps rewards comparable to its impact on those around it. As Bernie Sanders said of the Koch brothers; their efforts are a danger to our “democracy.” Democracy is the enemy of individual achievement.

Democracy is great if you happen to be in the majority. The Jews in Germany in the 1930s were not in the majority. So despite the gratitude that Germans owed them for all the incredible benefits they bestowed on German society, they were a convenient target as a scapegoat for any ills the government saw as a threat to its power.

An elementary school teacher was being interviewed on the radio a while back. She was speaking of her program for the kids to “find their identity.” I thought, “Wow, these kids don’t know who they are?” It didn’t take long to figure out that she thought these kids were of no value until they could be labeled; until they could be part of a group identity.

Language depends on labels. News stories have to economize by classifying people, even though the people within a class, group, or identity are all different. These days it seems as though we keep our mouths shut rather that saying something disagreeable and risk losing friends. So the media shoots these labels into our heads and they remain, they fester, without any discussion. The people around us, who we are not familiar with, become Jews, gays, Nazis; you name it.

It does have a profound impact on our world.

A bridal shop in Pennsylvania has closed because of death threats and a pending civil ordinance after it refused to sell dresses to a same sex couple. More recently, the Supreme Court has ruled that Colorado cannot force a baker to produce a wedding cake for two men.

This case has almost exclusively been centered around “religious freedom.” This is another diversion from the real issue of individual property rights. Jack Phillips, the baker, shouldn’t have to declare a religion to keep the state from bossing him around.

Likewise, David Mullins and Charlie Craig shouldn’t have to ask permission of the state to marry each other. How noble is it to ruin a person’s business when you could have simply gone elsewhere? Surely another shop could have sent their blessing along with the cake. A marriage based around conflict doesn’t sound so happy.

Whether you call it “God-given,” or “natural,” or “human” rights, what kind of warped logic says that one person has the right to rule over another?

I hope the elementary teacher in Cedar Rapids discovers her identity too. She could easily look at the name on her driver’s license. And she could treat her students as individuals as well, unless she is too lazy and has to lump them all into “identities.”

I am thankful that identity politics was thwarted in Europe in WWII. Let’s resist it here today as well.

The Peoples’ Car

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Ever since my rebellious days growing up in the sixties, I’ve striven to conserve to remain independent of my folks and still survive. Owning a car that I could keep running myself was instrumental for this purpose.

Some might label me as a conservative. I don’t accept that because so many self- proclaimed conservatives are extravagant with lives and cash when it comes to propping up the defense (sic) industry.

It is my classical conservatism that made me a Volkswagen fan starting in high school. My second car was a 1967 Beetle, bought brand new. Family subsidized the purchase but much of the cash came from my job at McDonald’s.

(A side note: Morgan Spurlock, who produced “Super Size Me,” has now confessed that the ill health he blamed on his 30-day McDonald’s binge was caused by alcohol addiction.)

I had a choice of a ’67 or a ’68 Bug and I opted for the ’67. The later model had those Ralph Naderesque fat bumpers, high-back seats, and smog devices that turned a slow car into a dog (no offense intended to you dogs out there). Those seats made it seem like an intercom was necessary to communicate front to back. The ’67 was the first year for the 12-volt system, making this the ultimate peoples’ car.

Unfortunately, that Zenith Blue bug, which cost $2,004.44 was destroyed by a Plymouth Roadrunner full of teenagers with 2,004 miles on the odometer. I’ve wanted another one ever since. For some reason, I’ve owned three 1959 Beetles. I once switched the engine in one in less than an hour, in a foot of snow. In researching for the Beetle we just bought, I found the record for the time it took for an engine replacement in a bug is under 7 minutes.

There is a belief that Volkswagen existed at the behest of Adolf Hitler. This is a myth, and a convenient one for people who hate Volkswagen because of what amounts to an act of civil disobedience when they altered the emissions for testing at the EPA. I correlate Volkswagen’s cheating to the sit-ins of the civil rights and anti-war movements of The Sixties. For many years before Hitler, German car companies were striving for a car that could be repaired and serviced by anyone.

The ’67 bug we found didn’t come with the 56-page operator’s manual but I found one on Ebay. In the manual it describes tightening the fan belt (by moving shims from between the pulley halves), adjusting the ignition timing, and adjusting the carburetor. Along with John Muir’s book, “How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive,” a few basic tools could keep one mobile and independent.

It may be called “the peoples’ car,” but mobile and independent is the opposite of a society dedicated to “the people,” as used in today’s political dialog pitting “the people” against the individual.

Oh Deer

While driving home from Forum Club, what to my wondering eyes should appear, but four tiny hooves, a flash of fur, and $10,000 that won’t be spent to further Iowa’s economy. You have to wonder what goes through the minds of these deer that jump out of nowhere into the path of a speeding car. Are they depressed?

I am. To add to the down time and inconvenience, the insurance company now thinks “cash value” is $5,000 less than what identical models are bringing on the market. I feel scammed.

But the people in Iowa are being scammed to a much larger degree by the state and its protection of the “deer herd.” The most recent record I could find was the year ending in June of 2014. There were 28,710 vehicle-deer collisions. With an average cost of $4,000, that was nearly $115 million taken from productive use (or private investments) by the state government’s deer.

I don’t hate the deer. I love all of God’s creatures. Why, just the other day I stepped out of the shop to make a phone call. I saw Doris’ ears prick up. That Blue Heeler puppy shot into the grove that we had planted 37 years ago and caught a squirrel. We had been enjoying seeing the squirrel last winter, the first one ever since we moved here. It now has babies starving in some nest high up in those trees. I cried.

Did I send a bill to the state government for the damage their deer did to our car? Why bother? The state has no interest in serving its citizens. If they did they would have a bounty on deer, butcher them, and feed them in the state prisons to save money.

In Cedar Rapids there are too many geese. What do you suppose the city plans to do about that? Oil the eggs. Visualize for a moment, city workers crawling around trying to avoid the protective mother geese to paint oil on the shells to abort the unhatched goslings. There’s a lot of meat out there for the taking in a state that sends out checks to help feed the needy.

While these hair-brained schemes like “managing the deer herd” and goose abortion are going on, there are businesses in need of skilled workers. Why the lack of skilled workers? Because education in Iowa is managed by government instead of being free to respond to market conditions. And then I read in the paper that a politician wants to be “Investing in Iowa’s priorities.” I cannot think of a less trustworthy entity to trust with our investments.

There should be no deer season. Landowners should be the ones who decide the fate of the creatures on their property. And if the state wants to help the poor, they should find a way to access surplus resources before issuing checks to be taken to the grocery store.

Syriasly?

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I voted for Donald Trump. No kidding.

As Trump was running for president, he declared U.S. policy in the Middle East to be a disaster. How could I not vote for the guy?

The other candidate declared something else, “We came, we saw, he died.” She was referring to Muammar Gaddafi of Libya, who had dismantled all his weapons of mass destruction according to an agreement made with Western powers in 2003. The result of her execution of Gaddafi is that Libya is now slave market to the world.

It used to be so simple. Conservatives and liberals opposed each other.

The drive for war in Syria is so all-encompassing it boggles the mind. The talk is about what we do about Assad’s (alleged, presumed) gas attack. There is nothing about why in the world that government, who is winning the war, would do such a thing. There is nothing about who would benefit. Whether Assad’s government did it or not is hardly mentioned as our rulers and their media salivate over more military expenditures and more death.

Liberals and conservatives are allied against the producers, the people who long ago threw up their hands in disgust. “Furnish us weapons. Furnish us skilled workers. We want free stuff!” they cry. We are obligated to conduct theft and murder around the world despite the fact that in hindsight, it always seems to make matters worse. The 9/11 attack was retaliation.

What about The Ten Commandments? Isn’t that supposed to be law, or at least a guide to behavior in our Judeo-Christian culture? There are people who think tax dollars are as much a given as the sun coming up in the east. What those tax dollars represent are wages for our servants in government. If our servants commit murder, are we guilty of murder ourselves?

It is shocking to me as I talk to people who are outwardly concerned about social justice, gay wedding cakes, racial or homophobic slurs and such that there is no outcry about the genocide in Yemen that we support for Saudi Arabia or our support for Al-Qaeda (known as moderate Muslims) in Syria. Why are we not a bit appreciative of the Russians and Iranians for defeating ISIS?

The media tries to make things simple in order to maintain the attention of their viewers. In order to do this, a lot of important facts get overlooked. One of those facts is that different segments of Islam hate each other even more than they hate the West. What achievable goal could we have over there?

President Trump’s claim that we have spent $7 trillion in the Middle East since 9/11 looks like a wild guess to me. We destroy. We rebuild. We bribe. Russia just sent “dozens” of diplomats home to America. What do “we” need dozens of diplomats there for anyway? Or anywhere? Doesn’t all this make it seem possible that $7 trillion might even be a low estimate?

We don’t know all the facts. But $100,000 for every five person household in the United States doesn’t need to be spent over there. It needs to be spent here, by the people who earned it, any way they choose.

Tune in to Fox News and listen to Tucker Carlson. My aunt had him as a student in elementary school. She did a good job.