Shots Across the Bow

A Reality Based Blog

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Horror of Poverty

I am sickened by the constant whining of some people who claim that they are poor. It's really getting grotesque hearing people living in the suburbs complain about their poverty.

Let me give you a little clue.

10. If you have a roof over your head that you own, you aren't poor.
9. If you have a car to drive, and gas to put in it, you aren't poor.
8. If you have a TV, a DVD player, cable, and/or internet access, you aren't poor.
7. If there's food on the table and more in the fridge, you aren't poor.
6. If you can afford takeout dinner once a week, you aren't poor.
5. If your kids have clothes that belong to them only, you aren't poor.
4. If you have a family doctor, you aren't poor.
3. If you go out to dinner once a month, you aren't poor
2. If your children sleep through the night because their bellies are full of food, then you aren't poor.
1. If your household income is above the US median ($50,233 in 2007), you most certainly are not poor.

If the above conditions describe you, then you aren't poor. You just want more than you've got, a feeling that afflicts many of us regardless of our income.

So stop whining about it.

You want to talk about poverty? Let's talk about the folks living in Sevier County who know about real poverty. Let's talk about a little boy who had to wear his older sister's dresses because hand me downs were the only clothes the family could afford. Let's talk about the kids going to school without proper supplies because there was no money for books, or paper, or a freaking $1.00 ruler from Walmart. Let's talk about the kids in Cocke County and Union County and Greene County that go to bed hungry each night; who can't wait for school to start so they know they'll get at least one good meal a day. Let's talk about the illegal immigrants who brave the desert, the Border Patrol, and racist fools in order to perform backbreaking labor for money most of us would laugh at, just so they can send it home, so their kids can eat.

You want to cry about how poor you are because you can't afford a new purse? Tell it to the lady who can't afford to take her little girl to the doctor to correct a cleft palate.

Let's talk about real poverty. Let's talk about Africa, where kids grow up without parents, because they were taken by disease or violence. Let's talk about kids going to bed every night, hungry, helpless, and hopeless. Let's talk about these kids growing up trapped in an unbreakable cycle of poverty, doomed to miss out on an education because their family needs them to work. Doomed to miss out on job training because they are too busy hauling water to their homes.


And you want to cry because your car needs tires and you'll have to give up your dinner out this month to pay for them?

Grow up! All of you!

Let me clue you in to something. If you live in the United States, chances are you've never experienced true poverty. There are isolated pockets of true poverty in America, but most people never see them, much less live in them. I went from being single with no dependents to married with 4 small children and one on the way, and I made less than $24,000 a year as an E-5 in the Navy. By every US standard, I was poor. I qualified for food stamps, assisted housing, WIC, ADFC, and any other welfare program you care to name. I never took a single dime. Not out of pride; if I needed help, I took it, but I didn't need it. I had a car, a TV, a computer, a stereo, furniture, and all the other material things I needed. None of it was new; none of it was particularly nice, but it did the job. My wife was a smart shopper and we operated on a very tight budget. Since I got out of the Navy, I've had some good years and some very lean years. One year, I made almost $60,000 working on a small island in the Pacific ocean, cleaning up a plutonium site; three years later, I made less than $18,000, managing a fast food restaurant while trying to start my first business. I ran up a tremendous amount of debt, and worked for several years to pay it off. I'm not telling you all this to blow my own horn, only to point out the truth. There were many times when I didn't have all the money I wanted, and more than a few times when I didn't have all the money I needed.

I may have been broke, but I was never poor.

You see, while I was in the Navy, I saw real poverty. We pulled into port in Rio de Janeiro. We spent a lot of time on the beaches, partying with the local ladies, but one day, while on a bus ride to Ipanema, I looked out the window and saw a mountainside covered with cardboard shanties. A few of them had corrugated metal roofs, but most of them were just cardboard, held together by faith and duck tape. There was nothing green on the hillside; everything was mud and filth. No bathrooms, no running water, no sanitation whatsoever, no electricity, no food.

Nothing, except kids standing ankle deep in human waste.

I wish I could say I did something, asked some questions, or got involved somehow, but I didn't. It was just too big to deal with; there was no way for me, an upper middle class American, to comprehend poverty on such a large scale. Besides, I was a sailor, and I was there to have a good time. If I worried about the kids I saw in that cardboard hell, I wouldn't enjoy my liberty. So I turned my head, pretended I didn't see it, and rode the bus down to the beach.

I'm not really good at pretending sometimes.

I hesitate to talk about this, because I don't want to be accused of being prideful, but I recently committed to giving 10% of my gross income to God, and I usually choose to do this through charities that minister to the truly poor. I tell you this not to sing my own praises, or even to inspire you to do the same, although that would be wonderful, but to explain why my stomach churns whenever I hear somebody crying about how poor they are while blogging from a desktop computer in their air conditioned home. My anger is not directed solely at their whining, as much as I would like to believe that's the truth.

My anger springs from remembering a callous young man, who saw children struggling in true poverty, and spent his money on food and fun instead of immediately using it to help however he could.

Look, I know times are tough right now, and they're only going to get tougher, and I know some of us have it harder than others. But the honest truth is that nobody reading these words, unless you're homeless and in a library escaping the rain/heat/cold for a few hours, has experienced real poverty. None of us are poor.

We're just spoiled.

Posted by Rich
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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Only a Liberal Could Say This with a Straight Face

From Knoxviews commenter rikki:

Gunnies are the soggiest bedwetters on the planet... I have no problem with gun owners or permit holders. I do think the State of Tennessee should look into handing out free diapers with each carry permit.

Comments like this one help to explain why we are winning. I think rikki and this young lady should get together.

I'm sure they'd have a lot to talk about.

Posted by Rich
Guns • (2) CommentsPermalink

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Every Dog Has His Day

The singing naked cowboy from Times Square is running for mayor of New York City, proving that sooner or later, every clown runs for political office. The scary thing is that in Minnesota, they actually stand a good chance of winning!

Posted by Rich
Politics • (1) CommentsPermalink

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Profiling, Racial and Otherwise

I was profiled and pulled over.

My race wasn't at issue; the issue was that I was driving through New Jersey with Florida tags and pulling a trailer, following another car with Florida tags. The police officer who pulled us over said that he suspected we were carrying drugs, and when he found out we were all in the Navy and that the closest thing to drugs we were carrying was two aspirins and some pipe tobacco, warned us not to tell anybody or he would end our lives.

I was profiled and pulled over another time.

My race wasn't at issue; the issue was that I was driving through a small town in another state at 2AM on a Thursday night. The police officer who pulled me over said I had been "driving erratically," which was completely untrue; he pulled me over because I didn't belong in his town, particularly at 2AM.

Now a Harvard professor was arrested for demanding that an officer give him his name and badge number after that officer questioned him for supposedly breaking in to his own house.

Folks, this isn't a race issue; it's an abuse of power issue. The common factor in all three cases, and in so many others, is not race, but an abuse of police power. I was pulled over twice for the "crime" of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Pr. Gates was arrested for refusing to co-operate with an officer, and for demanding accountability from that officer. The interesting question is not "Would a white man have been arrested in the same circumstances?" Believe me, had I or any other white man gotten in the face of that officer, we too would have been arrested. The interesting question is "Would the charges have been dropped without the professors fame and credentials?"

Like I said, it's not about race; it's about power and its abuse. Did the officer abuse his power when he harassed and arrested Gates? It's a hard call to make. Gates deliberately provoked and antagonized the officer, but does that give the officer the right to detain or arrest Gates? Some would argue that the police must maintain an aura of inviolability in order to do their jobs safely. In order to work effectively, police must be able to send the message that if you mess with them, you will pay a price. There is some validity to this argument because without that aura of authority, the only power the officer has is his weapon, and we really don't want that to be the only way he has to enforce the law. Police are not arbiters of the law; they are enforcers. On the other hand, we are citizens, not subjects. Should we be required to surrender our rights at the whim of any police officer who feels like we don't belong? Should we be compelled to identify ourselves to any officer who asks? Obviously not.

On the other hand, did Gates provoke this confrontation and his eventual arrest? Consider the circumstances. The police were called because a neighbor saw two men breaking in to a house. They arrive at the house to find the front door forced open and two men inside the house. Wouldn't it be reasonable for them to ask for identification at this point, whether the two men were black or white? Should Gates have gotten angry for being asked to identify himself, or should he have been grateful that the police were working to protect his property? What if you were in the same situation. Suppose you just had to break in to your own house and a neighbor called the police because they saw two people trying to break in. When the police got there, would you be angry that they wanted to make sure that you belonged there, or would you be grateful that they were doing their job?

It boils down to a simple question: Did the officer ask for Gates identification to verify that he was the rightful occupant, or because he was black? Gates wasn't arrested for breaking and entering; he was arrested for disorderly conduct for arguing with and pursuing the officer when the officer was trying to end the incident. Given the circumstances, and the fact that the officer was trying to leave the property while Gates continued to engage with him, it seems that the former is more likely.

The real profiling here was done by Pr. Gates, who, in his fatigue and frustration, revealed his prejudice against the police. He instantly assumed that it was all about his race, and not the circumstances. He later admitted that the woman who called 911 in the first place did the right thing, which is curious because if she did the right thing, then how could the responding officer be faulted for doing his job by following up on the call? Obviously, he can't. The officer was doing his job, nothing more. I haven't read anything that said he treated Pr. Gates with anything less than full courtesy. There's no reports that he pulled a weapon on him, or physically confronted him. All we know is that he asked for ID. That's his job and in those circumstances if he hadn't done that, he would have been negligent.

To most folks, this negates the racial aspect of this incident completely. Gates wasn't arrested for breaking and entering, and he wasn't arrested for being a black man; he was arrested for getting belligerent with a police officer who was doing his duty. But if this were just a story about a man arrested for getting belligerent with a police officer, well, it wouldn't sell a whole lot of newspapers, would it?

Posted by Rich
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Saturday, July 18, 2009

My Tribute to Walter Cronkite

It is simply this:

It wasn't until after Mr. Cronkite retired that we the viewing public learned anything about his politics. Sadly, today's news people see that as a bug, not a feature.

Posted by Rich
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A Little Perspective Before You Freak Out:  Swine Flu Facts

To date, 263 people have died from the swine flu since the first death two and a half months ago. In that same time period, over 40,000 people in the US have been diagnosed with the disease through doctor or hospital visits, 4800 had to be hospitalized, and it is estimated that over a million people have contracted swine flu, but only felt mild cold symptoms. So if you are exposed to the swine flu virus, you are looking at about a 0.48% chance of being hospitalized, and a 0.026% chance of dying from it.

Looking at it from the other side, you have a 96% chance of never even knowing you had the disease.

Posted by Rich
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Friday, July 17, 2009

Who Says the Law Must Make Sense?

Here's one that'll have you scratching your head.

I can carry a gun to defend myself from an attacker because I went through the process of getting a license to do so. However, if I carry a stick so I can defend myself without killing my attacker, I can go to jail.

a) A person commits an offense who intentionally or knowingly possesses,
manufactures, transports, repairs or sells:
(1) An explosive or an explosive weapon;
(2) A device principally designed, made or adapted for delivering or shooting an
explosive weapon;
(3) A machine gun;
(4) A short-barrel rifle or shotgun;
(5) A firearm silencer;
(6) Hoax device;
(7) A switchblade knife or knuckles; or
(8) Any other implement for infliction of serious bodily injury or death that has no
common lawful purpose.

So I can carry a tire iron, but if I carry a chunk of wood with a taped grip, I'm guilty of a Class A misdemeanor. Unless it's a baseball bat or a golf club, in which case, I'm good.

I started researching this because I want to carry a serious, but non-lethal, weapon; one that I can use to defend myself without necessarily killing the bad guy. Just like dressing for cold weather, I think the layered approach to self defense works best. The old saying goes that when the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem starts to look like a nail. Sometimes a screwdriver or a wrench works better. The problem is that Tennessee Law makes it very difficult to legally achieve that layered defense. If I carry a stick with the intent of defending myself, I can be in violation of the law.

Reading further, I did find the following:

CODE: 39-17-1308
...(9) By any person possessing a club or baton who holds a certificate that the person
has had training in the use of a club or baton for self-defense that is valid and issued by a
certified person authorized to give training in the use of clubs or batons, and is not
prohibited from purchasing a firearm under any local, state or federal laws;

There are a couple of problems with this. First, I've only found one instructor that says he's certified by the State of Tennessee to teach baton classes and he's in Nashville. That's a problem I can deal with; as long as I have some way of verifying that his credentials are good and that Tennessee will accept his training, I don't mind driving to Nashville for a class. The real problem is that most of the law enforcement officers I've spoken to are completely unaware of this section of the law. One told me straight out that it didn't matter what certifications I had; if he caught me with a baton, he would arrest me for carrying an unlawful weapon.

Sure, I'd win the court case, but after significant expense. Even worse, you can bet that my record would be flagged and the next time I tried to renew my HCP, I'd have all kinds of fun.

The way the law is written, my best legal option is to carry no other weapon but my gun, and that's just ridiculous.

Posted by Rich
Guns • (1) CommentsPermalink

You HAve Got to be Kidding Me!

A woman refused a C section and courts ruled that her decision constituted child neglect and abuse and terminated her parental rights.

DYFS commenced a Title 9 proceeding pursuant to the Abandonment, Abuse, Cruelty and Neglect Act (the Act), N.J.S.A. 9:6-8.21 to -8.106, and placed J.M.G. in its custody. At the fact-finding hearing, the trial judge found that J.M.G. was an abused and neglected child due in part to her parents' failure to cooperate with medical personnel at the time of her birth. V.M.'s refusal to consent to a c-section factored heavily into this decision. Later, at a permanency hearing, the judge approved DYFS's plan for termination of parental rights and foster family adoption.

Now, if she had requested a late term abortion, everything would have been peachy, right?

Posted by Rich
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Thursday, July 16, 2009

A Simple Question

If the healthcare system proposed by Democrats in Congress is so good, why are they exempting themselves from it while forcing it on the rest of us?

Posted by Rich
Politics • (1) CommentsPermalink

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Breaking News

A man carrying a gun ate lunch in a restaurant that serves alcohol. Nobody was harmed in the course of the meal.

Posted by Rich
Guns • (11) CommentsPermalink

Stupidity On Parade in Nashville

People have been carrying guns illegally into bars as long as there have been guns and bars and laws against mixing the two. By definition, the folks carrying those guns were criminals, demonstrating a lack of respect for the law, and the property rights of the owner.

Yet somehow, business as usual went on. Bars operated, people drank alcohol, and had a good time. BUt now that Tennessee has passed a law allowing non criminals to carry a gun into a bar, ie HCP holders, bar owners are afraid all hell will break loose. According to an article in The Tennessean, one bar plans on using hand held metal detectors to make sure that none of us dangerous HCP holders bring a gun into their bar.

At Tootsie's, owner Steve Smith plans to go a step further. He started looking Monday for two metal-detecting wands that the honky-tonk's security staff can wield at the two entrances. Smith said the devices, which he expects to set him back at least $2,000, should be in place by the weekend.

Oddly, they weren't as concerned with the criminals who were carrying into their bar for the last 20 years. At least, not enough to spend money on metal detectors.

I support the restaurant owners who post the required signage to keep law abiding citizens from carrying a gun within their establishment. It's their place of business and they can run it as they see fit. That's how this country works. If they chose to take on the liability of maintaining security for their business and their patrons, more power to them. However, since I doubt that they will take on the expensive proposition of providing actual security for those patrons, I will not be eating at any of those establishments.

Posted by Rich
Guns • (1) CommentsPermalink

Monday, July 06, 2009

Showing McCain What a REAL Maverick Looks Like

Sarah Palin resigned as governor of Alaska, turning the reins over to her lieutenant over the next few weeks. Democrat and Republican pundits condemned her with equal enthusiasm and vigor, the Democrats because that's what they do, tear people down, and the Republicans because they know the truth.

When the McCain team selected Palin as running mate, they thought they were getting a pretty face and a political stunt worthy of several points in the election. They also thought they were getting a candidate who could shore up McCain's major weakness among Republicans who were still actually conservative. As far as that goes, they were right, but they got a whole lot more. They got a strong minded, independent, truly conservative candidate who won the governor's job not just by beating the Democrat, but by beating the entrenched Republican candidate in the primary. Gov. Palin is not the type to sit by and look pretty and spout soundbites; she had strong views, and stronger opinions, and most importantly, strong support among the voters. I may have pulled the lever for McCain but I was voting for Palin, and I know I'm not the only one.

With the election over, Palin threatened the dinosaurs in the Republican Party almost as much as she threatened the Democrats. So, acting out of their own self interest, they worked to trash her before she could expose them. I've never heard of any political party that turned on one of their own candidates so openly and viciously. And did we ever hear John McCain stand to defend her? Or Michael Steele? What did they have to say when David Letterman made his obscene "jokes?" They said nothing substantive, and there is a simple explanation for their silence. All the lies, the leaks, and the rumors, many attributed to members of John McCain's staff, were sourced and designed to do one thing, to damage her credibility so that the only way she could run would be within the bounds of the Republican Party.

In short, they tried to put a leash on the Barracuda.

They failed.

My prediction is that Sarah Palin will spend the next 18 months raising money and campaigning for solidly conservative Congressmen and Senators. She may work with Republican candidates but I'm betting that she won't be working with the RNC. At the same time, she'll be lining up support for a Presidential campaign in 2012. After the 2010 Congressional elections, she'll evaluate her successes and decide whether a run in 2012 is realistic or not. If not, she'll continue to work to elect more true conservative members of Congress. Regardless, whether she moves in 2012 or 2016, she will announce the formation of a new political party, and those that she helped elect will immediately join her new party. One of Ross Perot's major flaws, other than the fact that he was bug nuts crazy, was that even if elected, he wouldn't have had any support in the Congress. By campaigning for and supporting hand picked candidates, Palin can minimize that problem.

Even if she doesn't form an independent party, you can bet that the candidates she backs will be small government conservatives, and that won't go down well with the Socialist-lite RINOs running the Republican Party.

If nothing else, this should be very entertaining.

Posted by Rich
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Saturday, July 04, 2009

Independence is More than Just a Word

There was a time in this country when the people wanted to stand on their own, without a paternalistic government to tell them what to do, where to go, or how to believe. These people wanted that independence so much that they were willing to leave everything they knew behind, friends, families, jobs, and all the securities that come with life in a well regimented society. They left behind health care, educational systems, social services, sanitation systems, police protections, art and cultural support, even the defense of a well trained and equipped military all because they believed that independence of thought, belief, and action was more important than these physical securities.

To be sure, there were many who did not leave voluntarily, but were exiled because of their inability to accept the status quo in a decadent and decaying society, characterized by a rigid class system that decreed a man should not rise above his station.

I think about all of those people, willing to sacrifice so much, all in order to take a chance, and with no guarantee of success. If they failed, there was no government safety net to catch them. They had to rely on the kindness of their fellow man, or they died. And many of them did die. Hostile natives, disease, famine, war; these all killed many of the men and women who took that magnificent leap of faith. And they knew going into it that death and failure were strong possibilities, but they chose to go anyway, because independence was more important to them than life itself.

These strong, brave men and women crossed the ocean and carved out a new life for themselves, and a new nation for their children. And when the old world tried to restrain them, they threw off the shackles of the past and embraced an uncertain destiny. They rebelled against the government that tried to control them from across the ocean. They defied the mightiest military force in the world. Again, there were no guarantees of success. In fact, the most probable outcome was humiliating, crushing defeat. Just like in the previous generation, when the majority elected to stay home in comfort and security, while a brave few chose to risk everything to stand as free men, limited only by their own abilities and their own character, in the new colonies, most of the people wanted to cling to the government, to accept the indignities and insults offered by a mad tyrant rather than to risk their prosperity and their security in a bid for freedom. Yet a few brave patriots stood against the tyrant and boldly proclaimed that they were free men, citizens, not subjects. On July 4th, they signed a document that pledged their Lives, their Fortunes, and their sacred Honor in the cause of freedom. They were willing to give up everything in order to win the one thing that truly matters.

Just over two centuries later, men and women who feel the same way are not just mocked and scorned, but are called dangerous, and potential terrorists. The government of the United States published an article that said that carrying a copy of the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence is a sign of a potential terrorist. A man who believes in the exact same ideals as the men who founded this nation is considered a potential criminal by that same nation.

How far we have fallen!

We've gone from a nation of men who fought and died for the right to succeed or fail based solely on our own merits to a nation of children who look to the government to ensure that all of our most basic needs are met. The prosperity that was earned by our ancestors' willingness to risk failure has turned us into cowards who seek security over freedom, welfare over opportunity, and dependence over independence. The people of the United States are now demanding that their state and local governments take bailout money from the federal government, no matter what strings may be attached. They are willingly surrendering their basic rights and freedoms in order to accept handouts from the federal government. They would rather be taken care of than take care of themselves.

The United States were a noble experiment in maximizing independence and individual liberty, but after a promising start, the experiment failed. The people have voted to give up everything their ancestors struggles, fought, and died for. We've come full circle, from giving up the comforts of being a subject in favor of independence to giving up that independence in favor of being subjects. Our history has demonstrated that the majority of people are not equipped to handle freedom, that they need and want to be taken care of, to be told what to do. Independence has always been the dream of a minority of people. Only a hardy few chose to leave Europe to find that freedom, and a generation later, only a few stood for independence from tyranny. Today, there are only a few who still believe that opportunity and independence are more important that safety and security, and those few risk arrest and retribution. We've come full circle, from rejecting a paternalistic tyrant in order to gain the freedom to excel, to rejecting freedom in favor of a maternalistic tyrant.

You can have freedom, or you can have security.

You can't have both. The freedom to achieve is also the freedom to fail, and bear the consequences of that failure. If you attempt to limit one side of the equation, you automatically limit the other side as well. As a nation, we;ve chosen security.

Our ancestors would be ashamed.

Posted by Rich
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Friday, July 03, 2009

Used Car Salesmen Get a Little More Respect

Just last week, I was getting lectured by Thomas Nephew about how the Washington Post wasn't really in bed with the Obama Administration; it just looked that way because the WaPo sucked up to whoever was in power.

Yeah, right.

Show me where the WaPo sold access to "the powerful few" White House officials during the Bush Administration.

The scariest/saddest part of this whole thing isn't that the Washington Post tried to profit off their access to the White House, but that they thought they could do so openly and nobody would care.

I guess we've finally found a class of human with lower ethics than paid lobbyists: newspaper editors and publishers.

Posted by Rich
Politics • (3) CommentsPermalink

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Read Obama’s Lips:  He’s Lying Like George H W Bush

All of you who voted to soak the rich? You'd better be looking for an umbrella because the definition of "rich" is about to be revised in a major way.

Posted by Rich
Politics • (0) CommentsPermalink

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