Belle of Liberty

Letting Freedom Ring

Saturday, November 13, 2010

22nd Birthday Card

Happy Birthday to My Nephew!

He's 22 today and studying hard

In his senior year

at Rensselaer.

He's studying to be an engineer.

And doing quite well,

from what I hear.

Have a birthday

filled with fun and good cheer!

Sorry I couldn't deliver the card in person.
Enjoy your day!


Auntie "Belle"

Friday, November 12, 2010

Happy Birthday, Mr. Conservative

Tomorrow is my nephew’s 22nd birthday. They grow up so fast. It seems like only yesterday my brother sat in the local McDonald’s having breakfast with me and our mother, while my ex-sister-in-law did all the hard work.

After that, the hard work was teaching him manners. He has very good manners now but it took a lot of badgering and nagging before we convinced him to use his utensils to eat his food. He was generally obedient otherwise; if he didn’t obey, he would have faced the wrath of his father. But by the time he reached high school, he was finally house-broken.

He’s always been an excellent student and shows some aptitude for art, which combined with his abilities in math and science put him on the path to a degree in engineering. Now in his senior year at a prestigious technical university, he’s contemplating his next step. We have no worries; he’s very intelligent. He was born intelligent. My brother, bullying his way into the delivery room, he took a picture of his newborn son, who turned to look at him with an almost unsettling, clear-eyed interest and comprehension.

The Nephew came under my tutelage at about the age of one, when his career-oriented mother returned to work. His grandmothers taught him to talk, his grandfather (the maternal one) taught him to build things, his parents taught him to swear, and I taught him to walk and to throw a football with a perfect spin. Alas, a talent that went unrealized, as his overprotective mother refused to allow him to participate in any contact sports. He doesn’t even know how to ride a bicycle.

I also taught him to be a Conservative. As I ferried him back and forth between my brother’s house and my mother’s house, and various other destinations, I tuned into Rush Limbaugh. Rush had gone national just a few months earlier. Experts claim infants and babies can’t understand words, that in the pre-lingual stage they’re unaware of words. Well then how in the world do they learn? What nonsense. I’m here to attest that your babies understand every word you say by about 9 or 10 months, if not earlier. At that age, I understood words perfectly. I just couldn’t say “Mommy,” “Daddy,” “Brother” and “Brownie” (our dog).

We foolishly thought the baby couldn’t understand anything, either. But all that time, The Nephew was soaking up the wisdom of Rush Limbaugh. When he was old enough to read and comprehend politics, I gave him a gift subscription to The Limbaugh Letter. To this day, he’s still getting, and the past two years or so, since I began subscribing to it, I’ve been passing on my copies of the National Review to him. When he graduates in the spring, I’ll probably give him his own subscription to NR. Then I think I’ll re-subscribe to Scientific American, pass those copies onto him, and when he finishes graduate school that will be his next gift. What am I doing? He has a subscription to this blog. Oh well. He’s so busy studying, I don’t think he’s had time to read it. By the time he does graduate, he’ll have gotten to this post and he’ll already have the subscription.

I don’t know whether we’re going to drive up to visit him. I missed the last visit to do the flu, and they said he was disappointed I hadn’t come; he wanted someone to talk politics with. I was disappointed, too: I wanted to talk to him about getting a college Tea Party started.

That’s the next step: getting the young people involved. Young Conservatives need to be brave, like Harry Potter. In print, the Boy Wizard was born in 1980 (a year before my co-worker). By the time the novels came out in 1997, his age was comparable to my nephew (1986, two years older than my nephew). By the time the film came out, the movie character’s was two years younger than my nephew. The actor who played Harry is only six months younger than my nephew. For that particular generation of kids, Harry was a same-age hero. Harry grew up with both my co-worker and my nephew.

Due to a lapse in the publication of the books and production of the movies, Harry’s and The Nephew’s official educational adventures will end at about the same time. By the end of each, they will have reached the true threshold of adulthood.

Our muggle world and the Wizarding World face similar dangers. Both worlds face smug, arrogant, and dangerous villains, drunken with their own corruption. It’s all about power. Both rely on magic as a means to justify an end. The Magical World at least relies on gold, which is more realistic than our own world, where we print increasingly worthless paper money and buy and sell on magical credit, where even paper money ceases to change hands.

Harry will face mortal danger this Spring. I don’t know whether my nephew will (I certainly hope not). But many young men and women his age will face life and death. The Harry Potter generation will be fighting a potentially apocalyptic battle generations and generations in the making. But this time, the liberty of Home Front, Hometown Americans is not vouchsafed. Terrorists have already breached our security, illegal immigrants pouring over our borders, and anarchists have control of our government.

Still, like Harry, young people like my nephew have something the terrorists, illegal immigrants, and anarchists don’t; something to live for, and the means to bring those dreams about. When my nephew is finished with his education, he will be a trained engineer, capable of designing and building skyscrapers, tunnels, and bridges. The terrorists and anarchists only know how to blow them up.

Happy 22nd Birthday, Nephew!! We’re proud of you!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Thanks They Get

In 1973, the year my older brother graduated from high school, the United States discontinued the draft, moving to an all-volunteer military force, ending mandatory conscription. However, the Selective Service System remains in place as a contingency plan; men between the ages of 18 and 25 are required to register so that a draft can be readily resumed if needed.

Had they not ended the draft, my brother and his buddies could have been called up. They worried over draft numbers, whether their number was high enough to keep them out of Viet Nam. My parents contemplated what they could do if he was drafted. With the right connections, they might have been able to get him into the Navy, stationed on some backwater supply boat. That’s the way people thought in those days.

Our all-volunteer military force actually has more prestige than the conscripted army did during the Sixties. Times have changed, the public has changed, and the military has changed. Well – sort of. Their slogans haven’t changed though.

I had the privilege of hosting the Veterans Day celebration in my office this year. I was sort of a one-gal army, writing the promo, posting the centralized flyers (we have four main offices and a host of satellite offices), writing my own speech and the executive message, and decorating the cafeteria. Whew!

We were told we couldn’t do the Pledge of Allegiance (or at least, it wouldn't be broadcast on the live feed), but to that mandate, I replied, “Nuts!” I found an employee military veteran willing to do the Pledge. He lost a leg in Viet Nam, and nearly lost the other one. I began the opening with the mottos from the five military branches:

• This we’ll defend (U.S. Army)

• Integrity First (U.S. Air Force)

• Honor, Courage, Commitment (U.S. Navy)

• Semper Fidelis (Always Faithful) (U.S. Marines)

• Semper Paratus (Always Ready)

Then it was on with the region-wide live-feed show, hosted by one of the other offices. The theme was a Salute to Our Home-front Heroes. When it was over, we were allowed to continue with our own program. Being a musician and a patriotic music-lover, I was hoping to have one of our official singers perform the National Anthem. But alas, one had laryngitis and the other was conscripted to customer service duty for the entire day. No passes!

Playing with the idea of leading the National Anthem myself, or perhaps the much-easier God Bless America, I passed on the notion of making a fool of myself. I can carry a tune as long as I don’t have to carry it too far. However, singing the Star Spangled Banner is more like climbing a mountain than singing a song. If you’re not careful, you can fall off the edge into an abyss. Or bring a shrieking avalanche down upon yourself.

Still, I wanted to do something patriotic and familiar. Finally, I settled on Washington’s Farewell Address, which was available in a biography I happened to have on hand of the First President. There was one section, in particular, that honors the sacrifices our veterans have made and the thing for which they have made those sacrifices: liberty.

• Pres. George Washington’s Farewell Address was not a speech to the Colonial troops.

• In fact, it was not a speech at all but a letter addressed to the American people, published in Philadelphia’s American Daily Advertiser on Sept. 19, 1796, originally entitled, “’The Address of General Washington To The People of The United States on his declining of the Presidency of the United States."

• Other newspapers immediately reprinted it, and shortened the title to “Washington’s Farewell Address.”

• Washington said farewell to his officers at Fraunces Tavern in New York City on Dec. 4, 1783, nine days after the Revolutionary War ended.

• Washington's popularity was great at the end of the Revolution and he had been urged to seize control of the government and establish a military regime.

• Instead, he publicly bid farewell to his troops at Fraunces Tavern and resigned as commander-in-chief at Annapolis, thus ensuring that the new United States government would not be a military dictatorship.

• Washington’s Farewell Address was to the people of the United States, after he had finished his second, and what he wanted to be, his last term as President. He had served his country for 45 years and longed to retire to his beloved Mount Vernon.

• Following is a brief excerpt of the letter:

• “In looking forward to the moment which is intended to terminate the career of my public life, my feelings do not permit me to suspend the deep acknowledgement of that debt of gratitude which I owe to my beloved country, for the many honors it has conferred upon me, for the steadfast confidence with which it has supported me.

• And for the opportunities I have thence enjoyed of manifesting my inviolable attachment by services faith and persevering, though in usefulness unequal to my zeal.

• If benefits have resulted to our country from these services, let it always be remembered to your praise, and as an instructive example in our annals, that, admidst vicissitudes of fortune often discouraging, in situations not infrequently want of Success has countenanced the spirit of criticism, the constancy of your support was the essential prop of the efforts, and a guarantee of the plans by which they were effected.

• I shall carry it with me to my grave, as a strong incitement to unceasing vows that your union and brother affection may be perpetual, that the free constitution, which is the work of your hands may be sacredly maintained; that its administration may be stamped with wisdom and virtue; that the happiness of the people of these states, under the auspices of liberty, may be made complete, by so careful a preservation and so prudent a use of this blessing as will acquire to them the glory of recommending it to the applause, affection, and adoption of every nation yet a stranger to it.

• Interwoven as is the love of liberty with every ligament of your hearts, no recommendation of mine is necessary to fortify or confirm the attachment.

• The unity of government which constitutes you one people is justly dear to you; for it is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independence, the support of your tranquility at home; your peace abroad; of your safety; of your prosperity; of that very Liberty which you so highly prize.

• But as it is easy to see, much pains will be taken, many artifices employed, to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth; as is the point in your political fortress against which the batteries of internal and external foes will be most constantly and actively directed, it is of infinite moment that you should properly estimate the immense value of your national union to your collective and individual happiness; that you should cherish a cordial, habitual, and immovable attachment to it; accustoming yourselves to think of it as a sacred object of your political safety and prosperity; watching for its preservation with jealous anxiety; discountenancing whatever may suggest that it can, in any event, be abandoned, and indignantly frowning upon every attempt to alienate any portion of your country from the rest, or to enfeeble the sacred ties which now link together the various parts.

• Citizens by birth or choice, of a common country, that country has a right to concentrate your affections. The name of AMERICAN, which belongs to you, in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of patriotism, more than any appellation derived from local discriminations. With slight shades of difference, you have the same love of God, manners, habits, and principles. The independence and liberty you possess are the work of joint councils and efforts; of common dangers, sufferings, and successes.

I had to edit Washington a little bit so that my audience would understand what this 18th Century leader was saying. I’m not certain how wise and virtuous our present government is, considering that in this past election they refused to count the ballots of those who have been willing to risk their lives to insure that we continue to enjoy that freedom and that those who live in countries that are strangers to freedom might one day enjoy those very same rights.

God bless our military veterans. God bless the America they defend.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Old Milk Barn

Once upon a time, there was a village called Radio City. Some called it Radio Row. You could get any type of electronics you needed there, whether you were looking for the latest technological gadget or you were a ham radio operator. Or a professor at a maritime school searching for teaching aids for your radio communications class.

According to a website called, which specializes in the history of the World Trade Center:

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey was created in 1921 to rationalize the rail, ship and terminal operations in the Port of New York, which is divided between New York on one side, and New Jersey on the other. According to the legislation, the Port Authority "shall constitute a body, both corporate and politic, with full power and authority to purchase, construct, lease and/or operate any terminal or transportation facility" within the Port District.

By 1960, the Port Authority operated bridges and tunnels, airports and port facilities, and warehouses. At about the same time that the World Trade Center was being proposed for a site on the East River, the Hudson and Manhattan Railroad, a small line which ran from Newark to lower Manhattan through a tunnel under the river, was going bankrupt. It needed a lot of investment in infrastructure and the commuters who used the line to get to work in lower Manhattan did not want to pay higher fares.

With millions of dollars in excess revenues pouring into the Port Authority from the tolls on the bridges and tunnels, some people though it would be a good idea for the Port Authority to buy the bankrupt Hudson and Manhattan Railroad properties, put up the money for modernization, and run the improved line. After all, it was the Port Authority's bridges and tunnels that enabled commuters to abandon the railroad and drive into the city.

New York Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller, then in his first term, insisted that the acquisition of the Hudson and Manhattan Railroad be linked with construction of the World Trade Center. The Port Authority is a bi-state agency. From Rockefeller's perspective, the takeover of the Hudson and Manhattan Railroad would primarily benefit New Jersey commuters. He felt that the World Trade Center would be a benefit to New York (he was wrong), so that linking the two projects was only fair.

The Port Authority did buy the bankrupt railroad. It paid the price it wanted because it threatened to condemn the property if the railroad did not accept its offer. The railroad consisted of right of way, rolling stock, the tunnel under the Hudson River, and some office buildings at the terminal end in Manhattan.

Once the deal was done in 1961, the Governor-elect of New Jersey, Richard Hughes, insisted that the World Trade Center's East River site would not benefit residents of New Jersey. Hughes insisted, and the Port Authority agreed, to move the Trade Center to the West Side and to build it on the site of the newly acquired Hudson and Manhattan properties.

The Port Authority then decided, once the Hudson and Manhattan Railroad had been acquired, to move the World Trade Center site to the West Side site and to build the Twin Towers, a much bigger project than the original proposal. The only problem was that the tenants on the site did not want to move. The area around the Hudson and Manhattan terminal was known as "radio row" the electronics supply industry of New York.

At a time when the piers were becoming obsolete as break bulk shipping was replaced by containerization, the Port Authority of New York tore down the electronics industry to build an office building which never made money. The Port Authority destroyed the biggest manufacturing growth industry of the late 20th century to build an office building which was a monument to the economic base of the city in the 19th century.

Opponents of the World Trade Center, mostly displaced businessmen, but also others, fought against the World Trade Center all the way to the United States Supreme Court, twice. Even after the project was approved, activists, called the Committee for a Reasonable World Trade Center, tried to get the project scaled back, but to no avail.

Never before had such grandiosity and luxury been funded with tax exempt bonds. The office of the Secretary The office of the Secretary of the Port Authority was huge, with a panoramic view of New York Harbor. The pictures of the Secretary of the Port Authority's offices in the World Trade Center included in this article were taken in July, 1977 by the author. He only went into the twin towers twice in his life. July 1977 was the last time, just to take these pictures. Many, many people refused to work in those buildings.

On April 11, 1963, the New York Times reported:


The U. S. Supreme Court last week refused to bear an appeal aimed at barring a start on New York City's $270-million World Trade Center. The Port of New York Authority immediately announced that it would order the architects to start work on functional planning and architectural design. Activity halted February 20 when businessmen in the 16-acre area to be condemned brought suit on grounds that the legislation authorizing the project violates constitutional limits on the right of eminent domain (ENR April 11, p. 77).

On August 5, 1963, the engineers officially broke ground on the project, although the building wouldn’t become visible until five years later. My mother, visiting the former Radio City site, so familiar to her and my grandfather in earlier years, found an incredibly huge hole in the ground. Having been a reporter on an architectural newspaper, she knew something incredibly huge was going to be built on this site.

However, the original tenants for the World Trade Center was the government. The governor at the time and the mayor promised that it would be filled with government workers and that the owners wouldn’t lose any money.

That’s how government works. First, it destroys free enterprise. Then it creates a huge hole. Then it fills the hole with taxpayers’ money. Then it covers up the hole and creates a monolith to government on top of it (meaning no disrespect to the 9/11 survivors, victims, and their friends and families).

Once upon a time, there was a restaurant called The Old Milk Barn. The Barn was a popular spot for locals, particularly renowned for its ice cream. On hot summer days, the line to get in was 30 people deep.

Next door was a Chevy dealer. They did a modest business. But then General Motors starting overproducing cars. The Chevy dealer’s lot began to overflow and the owner eyed the Old Milk Barn next door, with its enormous parking lot.

The Chevy dealer campaigned to buy the Old Milk Barn property, making offers and deals the Barn’s owners couldn’t refuse. The community was in an uproar. They didn’t want more cars; they wanted milkshakes and ice cream sundaes. Politics prevailed and the Chevy dealer bought the property. The Old Milk Barn was carefully deconstructed and crated up, just in case milkshakes and ice cream sundaes came back into vogue someday.

Fate and the market were not kind to the Chevy dealer or General Motors. By the time the 2008 election was settled, the Chevy dealer’s doors were shuttered. Today, there is no more Old Milk Barn and there is no more Chevy dealer.

Up the road, though, just past the traffic light and the Pompton Falls, the road department was busy digging holes in the Hamburg Turnpike to lay in new gas lines. They certainly needed replacing. Some dated back to the early 20th century when they carried coal gas, which was amazingly dangerous.

Right along the road, a TARP sign proudly announces its role in bringing this marvel of progressive construction to town. While there’s no question that the pipes need to be replaced, we can’t help wondering why municipal, county, and even state funds couldn’t have financed this project. Why did it have to take putting our country trillions of dollars in debt?

Why did it take putting a popular local restaurant and a reasonably prosperous car dealer out of business to repair our infrastructure? You can’t see the pipelines now that the work is complete and the road is repaved. The only sign that anything was done is the TARP sign. But you sure can see that empty car dealer down the road, and the empty field where once upon a time you could buy the most delicious milkshakes in the world.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Waterboarding Works

That old meanie, George W. Bush, in his new book, Decision Points, answers all sorts of charges about his presidency. The tome is one long apology. He apologizes for the economy. He apologizes for the Iraq War. He apologizes for Hurricane Katrina. He apologizes for not finding the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. He even apologizes for not catching a shoe an Iraqi journalist threw at him during a press conference.

One thing he doesn’t apologize for, however, is the order to water-board Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and two other terrorists.

The water-boarding, he tells the London Times, prevented attacks on Heathrow Airport and Canary Wharf in London, and other, unnamed targets in the United States. The trio were the three toughest, and most determined of the CIA’s detainees. The CIA had nothing to lose by water-boarding them, and everything to lose by treating them with kid gloves.

The interrogators had no way of knowing where KSM was telling them the truth at the very first interrogation or not. How much was he holding back and how much was he exaggerating. As it turns out, though he’s an outlandish, larger than life villain-in-his-own mind, there wasn’t much that he was exaggerating about. But plenty that he was – and probably still is – holding back.

He’s been out of the picture now for seven years. The rules for the detainees, though, are extremely lax. With all the privileges they’re allowed, he probably knows more about what’s happening than the CIA and the Armed Forces do with all their sophisticated equipment.

There was a documentary on the other night, yet another on the mystery of where Osama Bin Laden is, and whether he actually is. If he’s alive, experts say, no one is going to take the bait of reward money. If he’s dead, they debate whether we’d know it or not. Upon his death, the U.S. assumes he’d be mourned as a martyr. Unless of course, he died a natural death, as one of his followers insists, and was buried heroically, but quietly.

Yet just a few weeks ago, the authorities received a tape from someone they reasonably believe to be Bin Laden. Was it posted posthumously, or is he still laughing at the world from some remote mountaintop village in Pakistan? There are no electronic clues because it’s said Bin Laden has become a modern-day Luddite, shunning all technology.

According to the documentary, it’s nearly impossible in those desert mountain regions to “sneak up” on him. Whether by helicopter or SUV, his minions can see the dust for miles before the hit squad arrives. The documentary notes that many notorious criminals were hunted down for years. In Bin Laden’s case, they’ve been hunting him since 1997 – or earlier.

However, if the military or the CIA were to capture some knowledgeable Pakistani tribesman, to rule out water-boarding in order to learn Bin Laden’s location would be complete insanity.

Intelligence-gathering is a results-oriented business. An interviewer on MSNBC, interviewing Bush, tried to make a parallel comparison: what if another country water-boarded one of our agents? Well, they do. That’s why the CIA and the military have water-board training, to train our guys to resist it.

When it comes to terrorists intent on killing innocent civilians, all’s fair in war and water-boarding.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Dancing with the Sitars

Obama brought his song-and-dance act to Mumbai and Delhi to try to win over the Indians. Apparently, he’s succeeded with the Hindu Indians; not so much with the Muslims.

Part of his Indian mission is to broker peace between India and Pakistan over the Kashmir region. The other part was to negotiate a fairer trade deal between the U.S. and the sub-continent. Good luck with that.

He tried to appeal to the better angels of the Indian public and investors.

According to the U.K. Daily Mail, Obama said, “Unemployment in the U.S. is very high now, relative to what it is typically. Although we are making progress, we are not making progress quickly enough.”

Not quickly enough to save the mid-term elections. And who he is kidding, pleading poverty to one of the most impoverished nations on the earth? Surely, living much closer to India, in Indonesia, he heard the tales of Bombay and Delhi, of how garbage trucks how to go around to pick up the bodies of the people who starved to death during the night?

But thanks to our labor unions and the raising of the minimum wage, American business decided to do itself and the Indians a favor; they flew our American jobs halfway around the world.

He also said he wanted to bolster the Indian economy, to help them become a world business leader. His visit had rather the opposite effect on the economies in Mumbai and Delhi.

The Daily Mail reports:

“His visit may appear to be popular among Indian people, but much of Mumbai's workforce can't wait for Barack Obama to leave. Taxi drivers, street vendors and fishermen have complained they can barely afford to eat after the city was turned into a fortress for the state visit.

“All major roads have been blocked in India's financial capital - leaving taxi drivers without work for five days. Sandeep Jaiswal, 22, said he had earned just £2 in five days - compared with £21 on a normal day.

“'We have been left out of business. Because of him we are sitting idle for days now. First I was excited the American President was coming to my city but now I request him to leave us as soon as possible so that we could earn our bread and butter.'

“Fishermen have been banned from the coastline in case of attack from the sea and shopkeepers have complained about having to shut during the busy Diwali period.”

Good job, Obama. Ruining economies around the world.