Belle of Liberty

Letting Freedom Ring

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Villain Worship

As a little boy, my nephew was prone (as little boys sometimes are) to prefer villains to heroes.  Psychologically (for whatever reason), they identify a villain’s destructiveness as power and an antidote to the sugary, pastel-colored world in which their feminine mothers raise them.

Rebellious, he favored characters like the Joker (I don’t think it was that specific character, but I can’t remember now which villainous figure he enjoyed playing with).  I tried to convince him that Superman was the better character, that he was strong, too, and good and honorable.  My words fell on deaf little ears.

He admitted a week or two ago to his girlfriend (and myself) that what I said about him being a brat as a little kid was true but that he’d had an epiphany.  Actually, it was rather painful epiphany in which he said something unkind, untrue, and profane about my mother.  We were in the midst of the Boston Aquarium.  Suffice it to say, he was punished for it by his father, on the spot.  The Nephew admitted later that he shouldn’t have said what he said, that he deserved what he got, and since then, he’s enjoyed a good relationship with our mother.

Heath Ledger played the Joker in the Batman film, The Dark Knight, in 2008.  Reportedly, he admitted to having emotional problems after his performance, which he barely finished before dying at a young age of a prescription drug overdose.

James Holmes was studying for his Ph.D in neuroscience when he inexplicably dropped out.  Everyone who knew who said he was a quiet loner and a brilliant student.  According to a Fox News report:

 As part of the advanced program in Denver, a James Holmes had been listed as making a presentation in May about Micro DNA Biomarkers in a class named "Biological Basis of Psychiatric and Neurological Disorders."

In academic achievement "he was at the top of the top," recalled Riverside Chancellor Timothy P. White.

Holmes concentrated his study on "how we all behave," White added. "It's ironic and sad."

The entertainment media made much of Heath Ledger’s role as The Joker, raving that he was an up and coming actor.  It was the role that would “make” him, they touted.  Sadly, it was the role that unmade him.  Many actors are drawn towards the darker roles because they think they’ll be taken more seriously.  For instance, young Dan Radcliffe, taking a break from his part as Harry Potter, took the lead role in Equus, an extremely dark play about a psychologically troubled youth.

Ledger was very likeable and very heroic playing Mel Gibson’s eldest son in The Patriot.  He was making a name for himself in some other films as well.  Still, he couldn’t resist the temptation to venture into the dark side of drama.

Someone has to play the villain.  Every story needs one.  Freedom of speech dictates that dramatists be able to write about and film them.  That doesn’t mean that we need to celebrate and glorify them, and worse, emulate them, as James Holmes did, however.

Most normal people can distinguish between reality and fantasy.  Though they’re fascinated by a villain like Heath Ledger’s Joker, and can admire the actor’s performance, some censor in the mind reminds them that the character is evil – and fictional.  In the end, the hero wins and the audience cheers.

At the midnight showing in Aurora, Colo., a sick fantasy became a reality.  Apparently, having taken a course in psychological disorders, Holmes crossed the line, confusing fiction and reality, normal behavior and deviant behavior, taking those characteristics upon himself, even as Heath Ledger was said to have done.  Only Ledger, being a normal, healthy person, was disturbed by it, whereas Holmes embraced the dark side.

In a culture that increasingly encourages embracing negativity and violence, it’s not surprising these mass shootings are occurring.  Something snapped back in the Sixties, with the University of Texas-Austin shooting in August, 1966, when 25 year-old Charles Whitman killed 16 and injured 32 from the university’s observation tower.  Whitman had more obvious problems than Holmes – a court martial from the Marines, drug abuse, his parents were divorcing.  Like Holmes, he was initially a good student.

The facts are not yet in on why Holmes did it.  But clearly, to the Dark Side was he drawn.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Abuses by the Fourth Estate

As the body count in Aurora, Colo., rises and the Media must make retractions about their original information, it appears that the Press/the Media (“The Fourth Estate”) is engaged in leading the public by the nose toward their particular philosophy and this was recognized by the Founding Fathers – Madison, Jefferson, etcetera – as a grave danger to the Republic. 

The bounden duty of the Fourth Estate is to inform, not lead.   Freedom of the press should not include the freedom to deceive.  It should be recognized, though, that rapidly changing conditions of the news must necessitate a flexibility to be able to admit a mistake, an error, or a hasty conclusion.  The correcting of erroneous reporting is as vital as the original reporting itself. 

The history of the Fourth Estate is not something that was thought up the day before yesterday.  It harkens back to the early history of this nation, before it became a nation.  In fact, it goes back to Parliament and the reporters in the gallery, once they were granted the right to publish the proceedings of Parliament.  What does that mean to us?  Let us begin:

The Founding Fathers were students of Edmund Burke, who is said to have been the first to coin the term, “the Fourth Estate”.  In Burke's 1787 coining, the traditional three estates of Parliament were:   The Lords Spiritual (also called the Spiritual Peers), the Lords of Temporal, and the Commons.  The three estates of our republic are:  The Legislative Branch, comprising the two houses of Congress -The House of Representatives and the Senate; the Judiciary (the Supreme Court); and the Executive Branch (the presidency).

The job of the Fourth Estate is to keep an eye on the first three and report to us, the citizenry.  Anything beyond the reporting of facts is a major step beyond the Fourth Estate’s mandate.  A purveyor of false information must have a very good memory because the printed word does not go away easily; it will come back to bite you in a most uncomfortable place.

Another Black Eye for the Fourth Estate

In June of 1946, a radio news program premiered on the NBC Radio Network called “Fourth Estate,” featuring Mark Hellinger as narrator, and actor Edmund O’Brien in the lead “dramatic” role.  The series involved a dramatization of a real news story, with the reporter of that story receiving a $1,000 prize.

Later, in the age of television, somewhere around 1970, NBC tried a short-lived televised version of the series.  The American Legion to this day presents a Fourth Estate award to leading journalists, and new versions have popped up on the Internet and even Al-Jazeera TV.

Last night, 13 people were killed and 38 people injured in a mass shooting at a midnight showing of the new Batman film at the Century 16 Theater in Aurora, Colorado.  According to CBS Denver:

“Reports first came in that there were explosions in the theater showing the new Batman movie, ‘The Dark Knight Rises.’ Shots then rang out, and a frantic scene followed.

“Police said a gunman with a gas mask on and dressed in black shot and killed dozens and dozens of people. Authorities say the suspect, James Holmes, 24, killed 10 people inside the theater complex and that three others died after they were taken from the scene. A three-month-old was among the dozens who were hurt, but the baby was treated and released from the hospital.

“’Witnesses tell us he released some sort of canister. They heard a hissing sound and some gas emerged and the gunman opened fire,’” Chief Dan Oates said.

“Jennifer Seeger was in the theater and thought it was a theatrical thing at first when the suspect came in the theater covered with black clothes, a vest and wearing a gas mask.'

“’I thought he was just doing it as part of the show to add some pizzaz or something,” said Seeger, who dove to the ground and managed to avoid getting hurt. He didn’t say anything he just took a gas can that was filled with gas, he took the cap off and threw it and it exploded everywhere. At that point people thought it was an effect so they didn’t think anything and then he shot his first shot into the ceiling and that made everyone scatter. It was mass pandemonium at that point.’”

WABC’s Brian Ross followed up with a report that James Holmes was a member of the Tea Party.  Another rush to judgment by the Media before the facts are in, just as with Treyvon Martin killing.  WABC got the wrong James Holmes.  The Tea Party James Holmes, according to other reports, is 50 years old and had nothing to do with these horrible killings.

Not everyone is familiar with the term, the Fourth Estate. 

The Fourth Estate is a societal or political force or institution whose influence is not consistently or officially recognized. “Fourth Estate” most commonly refers to the news media; especially print journalism or “The Press.”  Thomas Carlyle attributed the origin of the term to Edmund Burke, who used it in a parliamentary debate in 1787 on the opening up of Press reporting of the House of Commons of Great Britain.   Earlier writers have applied the term to lawyers, to the British queens consort (acting as a free agent, independent of the king), and to the proletariat. The term makes implicit reference to the earlier division of the three Estates of the Realm.

In current use the term is applied to the Press, with the earliest use in this sense described by Thomas Carlyle in his book On Heroes and Hero Worship:

“Burke said there were Three Estates in Parliament; but, in the Reporters' Gallery yonder, there sat a Fourth Estate more important far than they all.”

Edmund Burke, born in 1728, was an Irish statesman, author, orator, political theorist and philosopher who, after moving to England, served for many years in the House of Commons of Great Britain as a member of the Whig party.

He is mainly remembered for his support of the cause of the American Revolutionaries, and for his later opposition to the French Revolution.  The latter led to his becoming the leading figure within the conservative faction of the Whig party, which he dubbed the “Old Whigs,” in opposition to the pro–French Revolution "New Whigs", led by Charles James Fox.

Burke was praised by both conservatives and liberals in the 19th century.   Since the 20th century, he has generally been viewed as the philosophical founder of modern Conservatism, as well as a representative of classical liberalism.

In Burke’s 1787 coining he would have been making reference to the traditional three estates of Parliament: The Lords Spiritual, the Lords Temporal and the Commons.  Carlyle wrote in his French Revolution (1837) that, “A Fourth Estate, of Able Editors, springs up; increases and multiplies, irrepressible, incalculable.”  In the French context, the other three estates are those of the French States-General: the church, the nobility and the townsmen.   Thomas Macaulay wrote in an essay of 1828 reviewing Hallam's Constitutional History: “The gallery in which the reporters sit has become a fourth estate of the realm.”  By 1835, when William Hazlitt (another editor of Michel de Montaigne—see below) applied the term to an individual journalist, William Cobbett, the phrase was well established.

In old days, men had the rack.  Now they have the Press.  That is an improvement, certainly.  But still, it is very bad, and wrong, and demoralizing.  Somebody – was it Burke? – called journalism the fourth estate.  That was true at the time, no doubt.  But at the present moment, it is the only estate.  It has eaten up the other three.  The Lords Temporal say nothing, the Lords Spiritual have nothing to say, and the House of Commons has nothing to say and says it.  We are dominated by Journalism.”

In America, the English phrase “fourth estate” is used to connote the press, or the media, as the “fourth branch of government.”  The word “estate” is used to emphasize the independence of the Press, while the "fourth branch" suggests that the Press is not independent of the government.

Awhile back, Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. struck a deal to acquire 63 newspapers.  He said that he may buy more publications as the industry rethinks whether to offer free content on the Internet.

He called the printed press an unsustainable model. Some of his papers are “already making progress in moving to something that makes more sense,” Buffett wrote in a letter to editors and publishers of Berkshire’s daily newspapers. “We want your best thinking as we work out the blend of digital and print that will attract both the audience and the revenue we need.”

While circulation may slip, papers only fail when there are dailies competing in the same town, a publication forfeits its position as the primary source of locally important information or the market doesn’t have a sense of identity, he said.

“We don’t face those problems,” Buffett, 81, wrote in the letter, also posted on the website of Berkshire’s Omaha World-Herald, which is in the Nebraska town where Buffett’s company is based. “Berkshire will probably purchase more papers in the next few years. We will favor towns and cities with a strong sense of community.”

Berkshire is the largest shareholder of Washington Post Co. (WPO)and purchased the World-Herald last year. Buffett said the company’s newspapers won’t “move the needle in terms of Berkshire’s economic value.”

Competition is bad for the newspaper business, according to Buffett.  That’s what my father and mother, both reporters, told me years ago.  Television and radio, and then the Internet changed the business model even further.  Reporters can no longer slant the news in their political favor – and get away with it.  They must do their due diligence in reporting stories.

Single dailies are no longer the only game in town.  Unions helped reduce towns to single dailies through strikes, job actions, and intimidation.  Until the government comes to their aide and enact legislation to regulate the Internet, they must depend upon Capitalists like Warren Buffet to buy up the venues and domains.

For the time being, the press is restricted to its fourth estate.  True independent news hounds are baying at their gates.  The new generation of newshounds not only track down the true story, but howl at the gates of the Fourth Estate until they retract the misinformation.

Finding out the true information about George  Zimmerman took some months.  For the innocent James Holmes, it took several hours.  He’s had to disconnect his phone because he’s been getting death threats.  The real news can now be about the innocent moviegoers who went to watch a violent movie, and wound part of the actions.  Our prayers to the injured and the families and friends of the deceased.

Need a steak for that black eye, Brian Ross?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Ghosts of Clinton Road

No, this isn’t about former Pres. Bill Clinton, although his ghost is said to haunt Democratic fund-raisers.  This about Clinton Road in West Milford, N.J., which attracts thrill-seeking teenagers every summer, looking for ghosts and former inhabitants of Jungle Habitat.

This ten-mile stretch of rural road seems endless, as there are few houses and fewer streetlights.   A narrow, two-lane road, it’s rarely traveled, except by ghost-hunters.  It’s a true country road.  Recently, two sets of teenagers were involved in car accidents, one fatal  – not on the fabled Clinton Road itself, but on the winding stretch of state highway 23 that leads to it.

Canistear Road is more notorious for accidents than Clinton Road.  But it is Clinton Road where Jungle Habitat was located.  The road and the surrounding woodlands have gained notoreity for legends of paranormal activity – ghosts, strange creatures, and gatherings of witches, Satanists, and the Ku Klux Klan.

It is also notorious for having the country's longest traffic light wait.   This occurs at a double intersection where Route 23 crosses the road. The two lights can cause motorists to wait for 5 minutes in total. The lengthy wait was a result of traffic planners giving increased priority to Route 23 to reduce the traffic jams during rush hour (another legend of Rt. 23).

The road, like the reservoir and brook in the area, gets its name from the now-vanished settlement of Clinton, which was located about where the road crosses the brook.

There are several tales regularly told about different areas along or near Clinton Road.

  • The ghost boy at the bridge: At one of the bridges over Clinton Brook near the reservoir, if you put a quarter in the middle of the road where the yellow line is, at midnight it will supposedly be promptly returned by the ghost of a boy who drowned while swimming below or had fallen in while sitting on the edge of the bridge. In some tellings, an apparition is seen; in others, the ghost pushes the teller into the water if he or she looks over the side of the bridge in order to save him from being run over as he was in life.

·         Besides the ghost boy, there have been other ghosts described by Weird NJ readers. One claims to have seen a ghost Camaro driven by a girl who supposedly died when she crashed it in 1988 (any mention while driving the road at night is supposed to trigger a manifestation).

·         Another claims to have encountered two park rangers one night while camping with friends near Terrace Pond, on a ridge accessible from the road by hiking trails, who in the morning turned out to have been the ghosts of two rangers who had died on the job in 1939.

·         The Druidic temple: A conical stone structure just east of the road south of the reservoir was said to be a site where local Druids practiced their rituals, and horrible things might come to pass for any intruder who looked too closely or came at the wrong time.  The building is actually an iron smelter left over from the 18th century when the ore was common in the area and needed for the Continental Army in the American Revolutionary War. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places as Clinton Furnace in 1976. It is currently fenced off by the Newark water department to prevent any entrance and the liability for injury that might result.

·         Ghost truck: There are accounts of phantom vehicles: pickup trucks that supposedly appear from nowhere in the middle of the night and chase drivers to the end of the road, then disappear.

·         Strange creatures, from hellhounds to monkeys and unidentifiable hybrids have allegedly been seen at night. If not of supernatural origin, they are said to have been survivors of Jungle Habitat, a nearby attraction that closed in 1976, which have managed to survive and crossbreed.

  • Some visitors to the area report also seeing people dressed weirdly at odd hours who simply stare at those who see them and do not speak. Sometimes these people disappear or are apparently not seen by those present.
  • Lastly, some travelers have reported a feeling of uneasiness or mounting dread as they drive down the road, sometimes so great that they have to turn back.
  • Cross Castle (sometimes referred to as Clinton Castle) - In 1905, a man named Richard Cross built a castle on high land near the reservoir for his wife and three children. Later in the 20th century, it fell into ruin after a fire had destroyed part of it and thus became a popular destination for hikers and local teenagers looking for secluded locations to camp out and have parties.  It was also widely believed to have played host to gatherings of Satan worshippers.  Past visitors have written to Weird NJ telling of strange occurrences in or near the castle site, such as people going into seizures and bruises appearing on their bodies afterwards, or having strange, disturbing visions. Writings on the castle's interior walls, particularly in areas that were supposedly inaccessible, that suggest Satanism have also been reported.  Newark's water department razed the castle as an attractive nuisance in 1988, but the foundations remain and several hiking trails can still be followed to the site.
  • The Ice Man.  One day in May 1983 a bicyclist going down the road noticed vultures feasting at a spot in the nearby woods. He investigated and discovered it was a human body.  An autopsy found that the man had died of foul play but also something initially puzzling:  ice crystals in blood vessels near his heart. His interior organs also had decayed at a rate far slower than his skin. Pathologists concluded that someone had frozen his body after death in an attempt to mislead investigators into believing he died at a later time than he actually did.  The man was identified as someone on the periphery of Mafia activities in Rockland County. The investigation ultimately led to the 1986 arrest of Richard Kuklinski, a New Jersey native involved in Rockland organized crime who confessed to being the killer of not only the victim at issue but a veteran hit man for the mob. He claimed to have killed over a hundred others and similarly treated their bodies, which earned him the nickname "The Iceman." He pled guilty to five of the murders and received two life sentences, which ended with his death in March 2006.

Whether or not there are ghosts on Clinton Road, there is now yet another ghost on Route 23’s infamous bends in West Milford.  The light at Clinton Road is responsible for such wrong-way accidents (the other accident involved alcohol) since drivers must cross through a wooded-median to get to the southbound lanes of the highway.

The first accident, involving the fatality, was a recipe for disaster:  a 16 year-old driver on a learner’s permit, driving an unfamiliar car, late at night on unfamiliar roads, having read a stupid, but very popular magazine with an article about Clinton Road.

What is our state thinking of, issuing any kind of drivers’ permits to 16 year-olds?  What are the parents thinking of?  Kids are kids; they love this Weird N.J. magazine and will find a way to search out New Jersey’s mysteries.  The real mysteries are in the bureaucracy of the Department of Transportation in Trenton, which issues permits to stupid kids, fails to put up proper direction signs, and improperly grades the roads. 

We’re still waiting for a sign in Wanaque that indicates to drivers on Union Avenue where the northbound entrance to Rt. 287 is.  Sit in the parking lot of the Stop & Shop on a Saturday evening and you’re likely to see some car mistake the exit ramp for the entrance and drive onto the highway the wrong way.

I met one of the sign-painters at the DOT in Trenton, a friendly fellow who would gladly paint the sign if someone would just give him the orders.  As for the history-mystery hunting teens, it’s too bad they don’t pay more attention to the real history of New Jersey.  Instead, they’re adding their own obituaries to the weird legends of New Jersey.

These kids always come from someplace else in New Jersey.  Do us a favor, please:  stay home!  This isn’t the kind of tourism we need.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The American TEA Party Congress

New Jersey Tea Partiers have never been satisfiied to wait around for someone to tell them what to do.  For three years, they’ve been engaged in local political skirmishes.  Now that they know their own strength and know whom they can trust, 16 New Jersey Tea Party groups and six Conservative advocacy groups, inspired by New Jersey blogger Gene Hoyas, have joined forces to unite as the American TEA Party Congress.

A little over a month ago, Hoyas proposed a system of unification on his website.  Then, on July 14, 2012, a number of Tea Party and Conservative groups met at the headquarters of the Bayshore Tea Party in Red Bank to formally create the American TEA Party Congress, voting unanimously for a charter.  This was an important first step in sending a message to elected officials and candidates to represent New Jersey citizens more effectively.

For many, both the establishment Republicans and Democrats have failed to heed the founding principles of a constitutionally limited and moral government. Their message: time to stop going along to get along.

In the course of a day-long meeting, they unified under the umbrella of an agency organization empowered and governed exclusively by them to act on their behalf.  Although numerous attempts at unification have been made in the three years the Tea Party movement has existed, all have either failed or met with limited success.
By a unanimous vote, the delegates committed their organizations to unity and authorized the creation of the American Tea Party Congress, an agency organization governed by a Board comprised of representatives from each of the constituent member groups.  This is a crucial and historically important action, as it demonstrates that the Tea Party movement is capable of joining forces in a single organization where all of the member groups retain their sovereignty.
Dwight Kehoe, founder of the Tea Party Advocacy Tracking Hub (TPATH), observed “No longer will the establishment swat away individual Tea Party groups: as of this date, for statewide and national issues, We The People will speak with one voice. There is no doubt this coalition will grow, not only here in the Garden State, but everywhere else. The format and procedures used in putting this together will be a model for every state in the union.”

The next session of the American Tea Party Congress is scheduled to meet on July 28, at which time the group will begin the process of ratifying a charter.  Here is a list of the Tea Party groups and kindred conservative groups that asked to be present at the summit. Four of the groups were absent while one arrived late and one departed early:

Bayshore Tea Party Group
Conservative Headquarters
Constitutional Accountability
East Jersey Tea Party
Greenwich Tea Party
Jackson Tea Party Patriots
Jersey City Tea Party Alliance
Jersey Shore Tea Party Patriots
League of American Families
Liber-Tea Tea Party
Liberty and Prosperity
Manchester Tea Party
Monmouth County Tea Party Caucus
New Jersey Tea Party Caucus
North Jersey Regional Tea Party
Ocean County Tea Party
Right Direction
Sea Oaks Tea Party Group
Tea Party of Middlesex County
Ventnor Tea Party
West Jersey Tea Party

According to Hoyas, representatives opposing the creation of the American TEA Party Congress prevailed upon at least eight northern New Jersey Tea Party groups to avoid attending the summit.    Ever since the Tea Parties began forming, infiltrators have attempted to discourage Tea Partiers and Conservative groups from forming and educating the public about liberty and limited government.  We’ve learned to recognize them and the stake they have in obstructing the Tea Party movement.

Since the American Tea Party Congress acknowledges the individuality of the local Tea Parties and Conservative groups, as the Constitution once protected states’ rights, there should be nothing to fear and everything to cheer at such a coalition.

The North Jersey Regional Tea Party welcomes residents in the northern New Jersey counties to attend their next meeting and learn more about how and why this new coalition came to be, and how it will affect the selection of candidates for future State and Congressional elections. This is a big step in magnifying our voices.  Please feel free to patronize the Barnyard for their graciousness in providing a venue for NJRTP’s monthly meetings. You’re encouraged to bring a friend for dinner and then proceed to the attached hall for the monthly meeting.

Date: Thursday July 19th.
Time: 7:00 pm sharp
Place: Barnyard and Carriage House

754 Totowa Road, Totowa, NJ 07512.
Directions: 973-942-8229

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A Grateful Nation

America is a grateful nation.  We’re so grateful, we actually created a national holiday for the sole purpose of expressing our gratitude to God for the bounty which He has bestowed upon us.

Not only are we a grateful nation, we’re also modest and humble.  Greet any veteran of our military as a hero and they’ll tell you the real heroes are buried in the graveyard.  Compliment any firefighter or police officer on their courage and they’ll tell you it was all in the line of duty, that they were just doing their jobs.

There was nothing modest or humble about the union cheerleaders at Obama’s speech on Friday.  When he mentioned those teachers in your life, a huge cheer went up.  Considering that our current crop of teachers are teaching our children false science and a tyrannical version of politics, at a pay rate that’s bankrupting most communities and states, I’m not sure what there is to cheer about.

They don’t want recognition (believe me); they want money.  That’s what you get when you hire government workers.  I earned every penny of my previous salary; getting real workers to acknowledge their own achievements was tough work, even when I reminded them that the article could be placed into their file and help them later on during the employee review.

You had to be an employee in good standing for me to interview you.  There was a whole vetting process before your name could get into print.  That was a job in itself.  Once an employee was vetted, then I could contact them.

Before I could interview them, though, there was yet another process through which we had to muddle, tougher even than the vetting process:  convincing the employee that they were a “company hero.”  After years of these interviews, I got the drill down pretty well.  I knew exactly what they were going to say:

“But I didn’t do anything!”

“That’s not what the customer says,” I’d reply.

“Well, I was just doing my job.”

“Not according to the customer.”

“But we do these kinds of claims all day long.”

“The customer doesn’t know that.”

“Anyone could have gotten a thank you letter.”

“No, not really.  Some do, but they don’t all get into print.  I had to get your supervisor’s permission and her supervisor’s permission first.”

“You talked to my supervisor?”

“Had to.”

“And she said it’s okay?”

 “Yup.  She has the letter.”

"She does?  I didn’t see it.”

“Well, I have it right here.  It says, “Dear Mr. CEO, I want to thank [employee’s name] for their outstanding and professional customer service.  My elderly mother’s house sustained roof damage.  She didn’t understand the claim process.  Not only did Ms. Jones explain it patiently but she brought the claim check to my mother’s house personally.  Et cetera, et cetera."

“You went out of your way to deliver the check?” I asked.

“Well, it was on my way home. It was a little bit out of my way, but I didn’t mind.”

“That’s why you got the letter,” I explained.  “Now about your photo.  We don’t have your photo on file so I’ll need you to go come up to the photo studio to…”

“Oh, no!  I don’t want my photo taken!”

We’d then spend the next 20 minutes going over that process – no photo, no story.  The issue was usually resolved with an e-mail to the supervisor to gain the employee’s cooperation.

Most claims involved more than one employee.  Our company was definitely team-oriented.  That didn’t matter to me.  Sometimes one employee had information another did not and it made the story more interesting, if longer.

That’s what frosts my cake about Obama’s patronizing speech.  No one in my former company needed to be reminded about how important teamwork.  We didn’t need his insulting, “spread-the-wealth” lecture.

Some employees would have preferred to dispense with the public relations’ recognition, not recognizing that an article on the website or even better, in the magazine, provided them with printed proof of their worth.  That’s why not everyone got into the magazine, even if they did something singularly well.  You had to have an excellent work record behind you as well.

Grandpa would have gotten more recognition for his radar plotter – which was extremely innovative for its time – but he had a reputation as a tough, no-nonsense teacher.  He didn’t suffer fools gladly and regularly cursed at his less adept pupils and once even put his fist through a chalkboard.  On the other hand, he had a genius for inventing Rube Goldberg devices to help his students understand the theories of electrical currents.  He’d stay up late into the night helping a cadet who was failing and would battle administrators who were wrongly punishing a midshipman.  The administration and faculty regarded him as intractable, oppugnant, and insubordinate.  When they complained about his cursing in the classroom, he thundered, “What the hell do you think they’re going to hear on the ships?”

And, not only did he invent the thing, but he wrote the first training manual on radar plotting (using my mother has his test subject) in order to teach the cadets how to use it.  That's how new the employment of radar in shipping and war was.  I don't believe he owed anything to anyone on that score, except perhaps his daughter, whose intelligence he frequently underestimated, though she inherited it from him.

The midshipmen at the academy were being trained as ship’s officers, but they’d still have to climb the ladder.  What’s more, they were being sent out into war to bring supplies to England.  Hundreds of merchant supply ships were sunk and hundreds, maybe thousands of lives lost.  My grandfather had six months to teach them four years of engineering.  You’re godddamned right he swore at them.

Grandpa earned a bad reputation among the administrators and faculty at Kings Point.  But he earned the undying respect of the midshipmen he sent to sea, on ships barely armed or equipped for emergencies.  I met some of his former pupils when I was in college (they called him “Cap”).  We met more of his pupils at a service Kings Point held for him after his death in 1985.  Even the young midshipmen, looking at the memorial plaques, acknowledged how many shipmates died and how many more lives were saved thanks to the training they received at my grandfather’s rough, but knowledgeable hands.

Kings Point’s midshipmen, at least at the time of his death, knew what they owed my grandfather, in spite of his faults and his bad temper.  Ship’s captains in the Fifties and the Sixties knew what they owed to his invention.  Certainly, his World War II students knew what they owed him.  They don’t need any lectures from you, “Professor” Obama, thank you very much!

Monday, July 16, 2012

The American Sun

During a campaign stop in Roanoke, Va., Obama suggested to his supporters that business owners owe their success to government investment and that their duty is to share their profits equally with the workers who help them run their business or manufacture their creation.

The speech came just days after he urged Congress to extend the Bush tax cuts only to families earning less than $250,000 because top earners have more of an obligation to pay more to trim the deficit.  Welcome to Marxism 101.

 “There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me because they want to give something back,” the president said. “If you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something -- there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there.

“If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges.  If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that.  Somebody else made that happen,” he said. “The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.”

My grandfather invented a device during World War II called the “luminous radar plotter” to aide in ship navigation.  He’d been a merchant seaman and radio engineer for much of his life.  If he had any investors at all, it certainly wasn’t the government.  He had no employees, either, other than my mother, helping him to build this thing and ship it off.  He didn’t invent radar, but he invented a better way (until the computer age came along), for seaman to track the weather and other ships in order to prevent accidents.

Then there's Pete the Machinist (he's one of the few people who doesn't mind being named).  The manufacturer he worked for had to lay him off and he decided to start his own machinery business from his basement.  He works about 12 to 14 hours a day in his shop; his hours are much longer than when he worked for a company.  He may have had help from his affluent ex-father-in-law, or he may not have.

This is one hard-working, blue-collar guy who can't understand why America signed onto NAFTA.  But rest assured - Pete has earned his money and then some.  No one "gave" it to him; certainly not the government.  He probably thinks Obama has a lot of nerve telling him he didn't make the hip replacement parts with which my mother is able to walk.  Pete didn't do that?  Someone else did?

George Mecherle, of State Farm Insurance, had no one to help him.  He had a different idea for insuring automobiles and homes, one that didn’t punish safer, rural drivers for the accidents caused by city drivers.  He worked diligently at selling investors on the idea.  He almost gave up and threw his plans into the fire, but his wife retrieved them.  Mecherle went on to build a successful company, no thanks to the government.

Any of the company’s agents will tell you how much they owe to their team members, and to the underwriters and claim representatives within the company.  The agents treat their teams well, but they have to earn their place in the agency.  The company has “given back” plenty to the community in charitable donations and its employees have volunteered countless hours of valuable time.

Charity and donations.   Those are words you don’t hear from Obama.  Taxation isn’t “giving something back.”  It’s taking something away.  It’s taking money away from those who earned it and giving it to those who didn’t.  The percentage of those truly in need should not be so high that they can’t be aided by charitable donations and volunteer help.  That it is so high is an indication of government interference with the natural order of commerce and free markets.  Socialism divides a country into two classes – a small, highly-educated and protected elite, and a larger mass of people who either receive government assistance or menial jobs to serve the elite – housekeepers, landscapers, grocery store clerks.

The middle class has “given back” so much in taxes already that they have nothing left to give.  Three cities in California are about to seize the mortgages of distressed property owners.  They’ll be allowed to live in their homes at a reduced rate, the original investors will be paid back, and a new set of investors will take over the mortgages.  But this plan will bankrupt those cities. 

San Bernardino is not the first city in California to go bankrupt.  Several years ago, the city of Vallejo declared bankruptcy.  Now others are following.  Undoubtedly, wealthier residents decided they’d paid enough of their “fair share” and left for healthier economic climes (like Texas).

Taxpayers don’t create deficits; irresponsible governments do.  Obama’s casuistry in laying the blame for the deficit at the feet of the taxpayers demonstrates just how far his impudence extends.  His Marxism will rob Americans of the real American dream – to live their lives independently – of the initiative to follow that dream, and of the rewards the creative need and deserve to continue innovating and improving the American dream.

Under Obama and Marxism, there will never again be anything new under the American sun.

Sunday, July 15, 2012


According to Gateway Pundit, while Mitt Romney is campaigning throughout the United States, Obama is going on yet another world tour, collecting millions in foreign donations in Sweden, Switzerland, France and Communist China.

When the Nephew and his Chinese girlfriend returned from Shanghai, they brought us many gifts.  Among them was a tee shirt with a picture of Obama wearing a Mao cap.  The writing was in Chinese.  She said the English translation was “Maobama.”

We had a good long talk last week, as the Nephew and “Gigi” helped me with my algebra studies.  Our family, being good Conservatives, welcomed this young lady with open arms, but we weren’t sure to whom we were opening arms.  From the little we gathered, she wasn’t pleased with Chinese politics, but we didn’t want to be impolitic and ask something that was none of our business.

I brought with me some souvenirs for “Gigi” from the Colonial Fair at Ringwood State Park on July 4th:  an 18th century lady’s night cap, a market purse, a white coin purse embroidered with silk from China, a parchment copy of the Declaration of Independence, a paperbound copy of the Declaration and the U.S. Constitution from the Cato Institute, a lady’s tricorn hat, which I personally decorated myself, and some Tea Party tee shirts.

We laughed and put on each other’s hat:  the Mao she gave me and the tricorn hat I gave her.

They showed me a bamboo-scrolled copy of the Art of War, imprinted in English on one side and Chinese on the other.  I also showed her The Little Red Book (“Quotations from Mao”).  She said it’s actually easier for Chinese to read the symbolic language than it is to read English, because one symbol can convey a hold sentence, where one long word conveys only one idea.

She had nothing good to say about Chairman Mao, or the Communist Party in particular.  She said that back in college her three roommates joined the party but that she didn’t.  The Nephew seemed particularly surprised to hear the news; I would have thought she’d have told him.  But no matter.

He asked her why not.  She looked rather angry and said she told her roommates they were idiots.  Gigi says that, like here, young people in China don’t pay much attention to politics.  Joining the Party is pragmatic; if you want to get ahead in China, you must.

She spoke about the 25 million people Chairman Mao killed and the heritage he destroyed during the Cultural Revolution.  Every Chinese family kept a written family history, dating back thousands of years.  But along came the Revolution, and every family was forced to turn over their family history books, which the Communists subsequently destroyed.

The current Chinese generation is happy to play video games and watch movies.  She says the video games are like a narcotic to them.  Here in America, narcotics are the narcotics.  I told her the American attitude towards politics was much the same and that normally people don’t get involved; they don’t even know for whom they’re voting.  I told her about Agenda 21, and the plan to herd people into planned communities.  She didn’t look too surprised.  I explained that’s why the Tea Parties had been organized – to combat our growing bureaucracy.  She looked dubious.

In China, she told us – as we already knew – no one owns any land.  But they are allowed to own their apartments or condominiums.  They can sell them in exchange for another.  But – after 70 years, the Chinese government takes the apartment back.  In other words, following the strict letter of Marxist law, her parents cannot leave their apartment to “Gigi.”

There is no religion there.  Apparently, my Nephew has been trying to convert “Gigi” to Christianity, but she is naturally skeptical.  Personally, I’d like to convert her to freedom, first.  She seemed quite pleased with the pink tee shirt I gave her that had the American flag and the word “freedom” in glitter.

I find it funny that Obama has gone to China, or is going there, to recruit donations for election in a free country.  Will he see the many tourist shops that carry the Maobama tee shirt with his face on it (wearing a Mao cap)?  He’ll be flattered, no doubt, not realizing that it’s a mockery.