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 Today, we need a nation of Minutemen, citizens who are not only prepared to take arms, but citizens who regard the preservation of freedom as the basic purpose of their daily life and who are willing to consciously work and sacrifice for that freedom.

          Pres. John Kennedy

 

 

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Sunday
Aug212016

FEDERAL EMPLOYMENT IN THE SUNSHINE

Chris Edwards, who works on the Cato Institute Downsizing the Federal Government Project, recently released some interesting data, as a part of that project. As he points out, one of the more interesting findings in the data is that, in spite of the controversy, it seems the Veterans Administration has actually added 100,000 workers in the last 7 years. The "we're understaffed" counter from VA apologists seems to ignore the facts of the situation.

Of equal interest, is Edwards' massaging of more comprehensive data from the federal Office of Personnel Management. In his Figure 1 (reprinted below), he broke total federal employment into two broad categories, Defense and Nondefense:

This shows a not-very surprising shift, following the "end of the Cold War", from defense employment to civilian employment. It also shows a short period of non-defense "retrenchment", as Edwards calls it, during the Reagan and Clinton years then pretty steady expansions under both President Bushes and President Obama.

In his Figure 2 (again reprinted below), Edwards show federal civilian employment by department.The fastest and deepest increases were in Homeland Security following the attacks of 9/11 AND the Veterans Administration. Edwards also notes, with concern, the growth in Justice...doubling since the late '80s even though crime has been on the decline.

What I find most interesting here is the inescapable conclusion that federal, civilian employment continues an inexorable climb, notwithstanding economic downturns or changes in demand for services. 

The issue, in my mind, then shifts to the costs associated with these employees. As to that, there is a very interesting recent study, which I plan to discuss at some length in a future post. For now, suffice it to say that multiple studies conclude that the "total compensation premium" (the ratio by which federal pays exceed private sector pays considering both pay and benefits) ranges between 16% and 61%, depending upon the study. When Edwards' data is considered in conjunction with this pay premium it's obviously time for a shake-up in government employment practices.

 

Sunday
Aug212016

HILLARY CLINTON...POOR LITTLE RICH GIRL

The Trump campaign has begun releasing television ads relentlessly playing video of her claiming she and Bill were "dirt poor" when they left the White House. It's difficult to imagine any right-thinking person would consider themselves impoverished just as they were purchasinga multi-million dollar mansion in one of the toniest neighborhhoods in New York, and when multi-million dollar book and speaking engagements had already been contracted.

So, it is, I think, fair to conclude that Hillary is FULL OF CRAP. So, let us look back at that time, and get an interesting glimpse into the then-current life, times and struggles of the former Secretary of State and First Lady from a contract into which she recently entered with the University of Nevada at Las Vegas (UNLV). Before I begin let me offer the same disclaimer that the contract does...the money to be paid will not actually go to Hillary but to The Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Foundation. That is called "repurposing of funds". The Clintons are fine accepting funds from public, taxpayer-funded institutions and using that money to accomplish objectives which the Clintons believe to be "more appropriate".

I suppose such repurposing of funds can be justifiable in some cases. But is it appropriate for very wealthy family to not simply take a fee or an honorarium for a speaking engagement but to require a whole host of perquisites and coddlings? It is estimated that the Clintons' net worth is about $102 million. That's pretty good for a couple who came from nothing and weren't even that exceptional for either achievements or ethics. (She failed the bar admission exam in D.C. and he will be forever known primarily for being impeached and disbarred.)

So what does Mrs. Clinton want to speak at UNLV, in addition to her $225,000 speaking fee? Let's count them off (I plucked these directly from the actual, executed Clinton-UNLV Contract).

EVENT FORMAT

  • She wants approval rights to the UNLV agenda proposal at least 1 month in advance
  • Only Hillary may be on stage while speaking
  • UNLV will pay, on request, for a teleprompter (here we go again!) AND a qualified operator
  • She gets approval on the person introducing her
  • If there is to be a moderated Q&A session, she approves Moderator...and only Hillary and Moderator can be on stage
  • If there are to be photos, only 1 per person/couple, up to 50 photos of no more than 100 people, is permitted and solely for personal use

MEDIA

  • No press without her approval
  • She approves all sets, banners, logos, etc.
  • ALL photos/videos may only be used with Hillary's consent
  • Hillary gets to approve all publicity and promotion
  • Her speech may not be recorded...except
  • UNLV will pay to have her speech transcribed, but it is only for Hillary, not UNLV 

OTHER STUFF

  • She gets 20 priority seats on UNLV for her staff and guests
  • UNLV must pay for any security required by the Secret Service

But, Hillary did make some concessions. She dropped her inital demand for a $300,000 fee. In addition, she gave in on her typical accommodations requirements, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal of August 16, 2014:

According to a May 31, 2013 email, Clinton’s standard contract usually includes:

■ Round-trip transportation on a chartered private jet “e.g., a Gulfstream 450 or larger jet,” plus round-trip business class travel for two advance staffers who will arrive up to three days in advance.

■ Hotel accommodations selected by Clinton’s staff and including “a presidential suite for Secretary Clinton and up to three (3) adjoining or contiguous single rooms for her travel aides and up to two (2) additional single rooms for the advance staff.”

■ A $500 travel stipend to cover out-of-pocket costs for Clinton’s lead travel aide.

■ Meals and incidentals for Clinton, her travel aides and advance staff, as well as all phone charges.

I am all for capitalism and the market setting its own pricing. But I am tired of this elite "ruling class" which seeks elective office "to serve" and then becomes a permanent member of an American nobility. The Clintons behave like the "robber barons" of our Industrial Age. And the Obamas do as well. And so do many--maybe most--of the Democrats and Republicans who remain in office long after their time for making a contribution has passed.

So, I now drag this whole matter back to what it is that I personally find repugnant in this behavior. And that is exactly what I have hinted at above. Without meaningful term limits the development of this super-class of the perennially elected will cause great damage to our republic. In a wonderful article, One of the most Intriguing Might-Have-Beens in American History, Jack Lynch writes about Thomas Jefferson's disappointment in some of the missing, critical elements he felt were necessary for our Constitution:  

(Most) disturbing for Jefferson was "the abandonment in every instance of the necessity of rotation in office." Experience had convinced him that, without term limits, every elected official will be "an officer for life." The Constitution's neglect of this problem was for him a nearly fatal flaw.

This is not a partisan issue. This a matter of embracing who we are meant to be as Americans. We should NOT have a ruling class, and absent term limits throughout our federal government, we effectively do. That class membership expands itself like some devious amoeba. It starts by soliciting wads of money from willing contributors...often those hoping for some form of "payback". Once elected, fundraising becomes much easier, but it IS a steady, daily and critical part of the elected official's routine. And the quid pro quos get bigger and more corrupting. And the government grows larger and more entrenched. And it begins to see itself as the masters of "we the people".

What Hillary Clinton does is hardly unique. She is just another sow suckling at the teat of the American taxpayer. I find terrifying and demoralizing the mere thought of what has happened to us, as citizens, that we allow this travesty to continue.

Thursday
Aug182016

GOOD NIGHT, MR. TRUMP!

The Center for Politics at The University of Virginia--that's under the direction of the excellent Prof. Larry Sabato--has updated its latest Electoral College map. Absent some unforeseen event (not unlikely in this election cycle full of "unlikely"s), Hillary appears to have a near-insurmountable lead. As each day passes, Trump's chances drift further out to sea. At this point, he seems to be pinning his hopes on a new "CEO", a contentious Breitbart alum. I won't vote for either of these major candidates, but I must admit, this has become a fascinating, if intensely ugly, election.


Tuesday
Aug162016

"HOW DID WE GET INTO THE PREDICAMENT...

...where our choices for president are narrowed to a candidate who inspires DISTRUST versus a candidate who inspires DISGUST."

These are the words of Thomas Sowell, the brilliant commentator and senior fellow at the Hoover Institute at Stanford University, from his August 10th piece in National Review. In that, he thoughtfully and directly considers the bad decisions and missteps that led us to such a terrible Hobson's choice, between Trump and Clinton. It is, he says, hard to imagine that any other GOP candidate would not have been able to defeat Hillary Clinton. Yet, here we are!

Clinton is clearly a threat to our Constitution. She very publicly looks to overturn the Citizens United case, and Sowell is convinced she will vigorously pursue a "progressive" reworking of, at least, the First and Second Amendments. That is THE slippery slope to totalitarianism we all fear...maybe not today or tomorrow but it is virtually inevitable.

What could be worse, Sowell asks, then being deprived of our inalienable rights. And, he argues, it is living under a threat of recklessness at any moment. And there, we have, Trump.

He has demonstrated brashness, a lack of critical thinking or strategic insight into complex matters. All his statements reflect a playground-level of thought. Sowell calls him "the oldest man who has never grown up". He points to the unprecedented position of 50 widely-respected national security and foreign policy experts not to support Trump. And their reason is not only his lack of knowledge but also his complete lack of interest in "educating himself". 

So, Hillary engenders distrust. Trump engenders disgust. (Both clearly reflect my personal opinion on both.) Sowell's argument, of course, is that there are means of addressing any assault on our inalienable rights. There is nothing that can protect us from a man entirely unequipped to maturely handle the enormous responsibility which resides in the Oval Office. He threatens our very way of living, our existence. As these national security experts put it: Trump would be "the most reckless president in American history".

 

Monday
Aug152016

WHAT IF THERE ARE NO ALIENS BECAUSE WE'RE EARLY?

In an article to be published in The Journal of Cosmology and Astroparticle Physics (a magazine I'm sure we all read as hungrily as People!), Author Douglas Adams writes that space is big. (His actual quote is that it's vastly, hugely, mind-boggingly big.) And through very intense study and calculation they have concluded that our standard theory on extraterrestrial life elsewhere in the universe may be wrong!

For many years scientists have speculated that the best evidence of other lifeforms out there is simple probability--that, given the vastness of the space in which we live, it is mathematically likely that others have likewise developed. Of course, the inverse of that is that this same "vastness" would make locating such extraterrestrials equally, or more, unlikely. Now, a team under astrophysicist Dr. Avi Loeb, chair of Astronomy at Harvard, has offered another possible explanation.

In their paper, the scientists:

chart out the probability of life’s emergence from the birth of the first stars 30 million years after the Big Bang to the death of the last stars trillions of years into the future. Loeb’s team focused on “life as we know it,” meaning terrestrial organisms on a rocky planet with liquid water, within the habitable zone of its star.

The team then made certain assumptions that red dwarf stars, the much smaller cousins of our own Sun, a yellow dwarf, might actually be able to develop environments conducive to some form of life. If so, they speculate, then life developing on planets around these red dwarf stars becomes much more like. In fact, "Loeb’s team found that life would be about one thousand times more likely to arise in the distant future by calculating the probability of habitable, Earthlike planets forming over trillions of years."

So, it just may be that we're early bloomers here on Earth, and we're way ahead of other galaxies. I suppose we may never know the answer in our lifetimes, but it is another possibility that is interesting to contemplate.

Here's a link to a much more extensive explanation in MOTHERBOARD. It's worth a read, if only to ponder the possibility that the future may pose even more exciting discoveries.