Wednesday, April 08, 2009

An Already Failed Experiment

The kid told his father what his intentions were. The father told his son not to do it, it’s been tried, it’s failed every time, and it wouldn’t work this time either.

But the dad’s cousin, who also lived with them, had been more encouraging. He told the kid the plan would work and the father to “be more supportive.” “You want him to succeed don’t you?” he asked of the father.

The father had disagreed, even taken the time to show his son all the YouTube videos of others who’d made their own wings and then crashed painfully, even mortally into the ground.

But the kid ignored the advice of his father. Instead he devised a plan to go ahead with his own wings. He’d even convinced his younger brother he could fly with him.

So the two boys, at the urging of the cousin, used dad’s best tools, some of dad’s new lumber and some of the old hard wood dad said wasn’t to be touched. Some of the screws were new and shiny, some were old and rusty, but the wings took shape.

Next he raided his mother’s closet and took her best bed sheets, wrapping the wood on both sides to convince his little brother it was safe. He then plundered her craft cabinet, took her fabric paints and painted the wings to look like eagle’s wings. Surely if they looked like eagle’s wings the plan would work.

Next he used mom’s Velcro and some of dad’s wire and string to tie the wings to his arms, and then the younger boy tied himself to big brother’s back. Strapped together they’d fly to glory.

Now they stood a few steps from the edge of the roof. It was a good thing dad worked so hard because they had the tallest, best house in town. As big as it was, it would be the best place to fly off of.

The father heard the commotion on the roof. He’d been in his office paying the bills and doing the extra work that had provided so much for his family. But a bad feeling came over him when he heard the shuffling up above. He knew what his son was up to.

He raced outside, along with his cousin who’d heard the same.

The father’s heart dropped when he saw the two boys perched a few feet from the edge of the high peak. He immediately shouted for the boys to stop and come down. He kept yelling. However, his cousin, whom he tolerated because he was family and he loved him, yelled good luck to the kids, “you can do it!”

In lock step, just as big brother had taught the younger, they took the three steps toward the edge of the roof to build up speed, and jumped.

For a brief moment in time it looked as if they would fly. And then reality and gravity kicked in and the boys plummeted to the ground.

The father stood bewildered, the horrific outcome flashing through his mind right before it actually happened. Everything that meant anything was about to be lost.

His cousin, now faced with the same reality instantly changed heart, but it was too late. What had he done?

Terror raced through the younger brother, but it was too late for him too. He’d tied himself to big brother and the doomed plan.

Now ask yourself, when it comes to Obama’s plans, “are you most like the little brother, the cousin, or the father?”

Obama's Budget Hurts All of Us

Originally Published 24 March 2009

After Obama repeatedly bashed George Bush about the deficit Bush ran up, the Congressional Budget Office now says Obama’s budget will launch our deficit to 9.3 trillion dollars over the next ten years.

More disturbing than Obama’s hypocrisy on the subject are all of the negative consequences of his budget to our country. Those consequences often seem “far from home” for most people. Talking in trillions of dollars and getting our heads around the long-term implications of record deficits is hard to fathom.

But when the impact can be directly related to our lives, it puts a sense of perspective to the detrimental path Obama is pursuing.

Senator Johanns and his staff have been putting the direct affect of Obama’s budget in perspective. The Congressional Budget Office, much to the Administration’s chagrin, has been doing the same. Recent press releases and floor speeches have highlighted the very specific facts and figures about how the budget will affect each of us.

Although Obama promised to only raise taxes on those who make over $250,000 (or wherever that number ended up), it turns out his budget will impact everyone, including those of us who don’t make near that much.

Obama, like others who put the emotion of global warming ahead of common sense, wants to create a series of taxes for current energy sources that will cost everyone who use energy; pretty much all of us.

That alone will increase the tax burden on every family by about $2,300. So much for only raising taxes on those making over $250,000.

On top of that, it appears Obama’s plan will impose approximately 13% more in taxes on small and medium sized businesses. Because those businesses employ 74% of Nebraskans, it would be a far stretch to believe that his plan will not cost those of us who do business with them, or affect how many people they’re able to employ, or both.

I visited with two small business owners in central Nebraska before the budget plan was announced concerning their feelings about Obama’s fiscal philosophy and how it might affect them.

Both, one in the service sector and one in the retail sector, had seen this coming and were concerned. Rightfully so it turns out.

The retail business owner had actually started cutting back on expenses after the election, saving money, figuring that any Obama plan would cost him more in taxes. He cut back on his advertising budget, inventory on hand, and several other areas. The current economic times had not affected his business, but all pre-election indications were that Obama’s likely plans would be harmful. It now appears that the pre-election analysis was correct, and that he made a smart business decision.

Yes, we will all pay more taxes under the Obama plan. We will directly pay more for our own energy use. We will pay for the increased cost of everything we buy; all goods and services will be affected by the tax increases. It may cost more Nebraskans their jobs as small and medium size businesses cut back to cover the 13% greater tax burden.

Obama’s budget is estimated to increase taxes by $1.9 trillion. Every single one of us will get caught in that dragnet, not just the “rich.”

Congress Needs To Get Its Act Together

Although Barack Obama is performing as poorly as expected, the equally poor performance of Congress is beyond expectations. It’s time for smarter, cooler heads to prevail and for Congress to start acting in accordance with the sensibilities and grounded realities of those they represent.

It was foreseen that Barack Obama’s lack of leadership experience and flaccid positions made him completely unprepared to be President. He now looks like a kindergartner thrown into a PhD program.

We fully expected him to jerk the steering wheel of America as hard and far to the left as humanly possible. We knew he would run to the tax and spend basket. We also knew he’d go after the 2nd Amendment, do a full frontal assault on the unborn, tear down national security protections, and generally pursue a socialist agenda. Well, almost half of us knew he would.

And we knew Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi would be his willing accomplices.

But what has been quite disappointing is the performance of Congress as a whole.

It should have been a safe assumption that at least enough fiscally responsible individuals and smart people inhabited both Houses that sensible policies would have been generated, but it wasn’t.

First they passed a nearly trillion dollar “stimulus” bill that was 2/3 pork, ignoring an option that spent half as much but produced twice as much. Instead, hundreds of billions of dollars for pet projects were forced through Congress and signed without even being read.

One of the things blindly shoved through with that stimulus, and a good example of our Keystone Congress, was the permission for AIG to provide those ridiculous bonuses.

First Congress gave AIG the money for the bonuses in the bank bailout, and then the green-light to pay the bonuses (at the urging of the White House) in the stimulus bill they didn’t read.

But even more outrageous than the bonuses is the hypocritical indignation of the Senators and Representatives who made the bonuses quite possible. While throwing tantrums they look as petty as the parent who gives his kids finger-paints, shows them how to use it on the walls, and then explodes in anger when he comes home to a rainbow mosaic on the walls. Give us a break!

Then a $400 billion “Omnibus” spending bill was rammed through. There was almost a glimmer of sanity as some members of the Senate tried to slow it down, but alas, it went through pork and all.

Now Obama’s trying to push a $3.5 trillion budget, and to use Ben Nelson’s term, it is a complete “fudget” that plays hide and seek with a record amount of our money.

The Congressional Budget Office is predicting trillions of dollars in deficits that are dangerously high for the next ten years with Obama’s plan. They obviously aren’t putting much stock in Obama’s so called reduction plan. They’re not fooled by his parlor tricks.

Running up record deficits in just the first sixty days and forcing our country to hemorrhage money at an exponential rate via Congress and the Fed, some economists and lawmakers are now flat-out predicting Obama will bankrupt our nation.

It’s time for Congressmen and Senators alike to change course, quit talking about being concerned about deficits and out of control spending, and actually do something about it. Start voting “no,” and start supporting those pieces of legislation that resemble the sane and responsible policies and actions individual Americans, successful businesses, and fiscally sound States live and succeed with.

Obama Plans to Bill Wounded Vets for Health Care

Originally Published 17 March 2009

Among the many things that Obama cleverly tried to disguise during his campaign was that he didn’t “get it” when it came to our military and veterans. However, he’s revealing his incompetence with his plan for veteran’s health care.

A recent press release from the American Legion described the National Commander of the Legion as being “deeply disappointed, concerned, and clearly angered” after meeting with Barack Obama.

The Obama Administration is moving forward with a plan to have the VA charge veterans for their service related VA provided care, if they happen to also have private health insurance. Veterans would have to submit these VA charges to their own insurance company (or have the VA bill their insurance company) for reimbursement of the costs back to the VA. This includes expenses related to treatment of service-related injuries, illnesses, and disabilities.

Under Obama’s plan, a vet with a disability comes home from war, and lands a good job which provides health insurance benefits. He then seeks treatment for his service-related disability at the VA. The VA treats the vet, but then charges the vet for the treatment because he has private insurance. The vet is forced to submit the charges to his private insurance so they can reimburse the VA. The vet bears the costs of co-pays and deductibles, incurs the hit against his lifetime maximum benefit, and the government shifts financial responsibility for veterans care from the VA to the insurance company.

According to the Legion Commander, Obama’s intention is to use this process as a revenue generating enterprise for the government, with a goal of raising $540 million by shifting the costs of veterans’ health care from the VA to private insurers.

And in true Obama fashion, he ignored the arguments against such a proposal. According to Commander Rehbein, Obama is “acting inconsistently with the mandate” to care for those who fought as ordered by their country. Additionally, Obama “refused to hear arguments about the moral and government-avowed obligations that would be compromised by it."

The plan is “inconsistent with the mandate that VA treat service-connected injuries and disabilities given that the United States government sends members of the armed forces into harm's way.”

Charging for treatment of a service-related injury or illness through a private insurance company could “max out” the veteran’s insurance benefits. That would leave him or her uninsured for any other needs. It could also leave the vet’s family uninsured when the coverage reaches its maximum.

Additionally, veterans would now have to bear the costs of insurance deductibles, elevated costs for insurance premiums charged to those with a known illness or disability, and face reluctance to be hired by a company that may have trouble acquiring and funding health care for a veteran’s situation; all unprecedented moves against veterans by any administration.

(For the record, this wouldn’t affect me personally, but would certainly be detrimental to other vets.)

Of the very few things our government should have its hands in, caring for veterans who need it after fighting for our country is one of them. Obama’s plan is thus, outright unacceptable.

Ironically, this story is emerging at the same time as Obama’s plan to move toward socialized medicine with a down payment that alone costs $640 billion. While planning to absolve the government of its financial responsibility for veterans care, Obama is planning to burden taxpayers for provision of free health care to others who are uninsured.

Our veterans deserve better, and our elected representatives deserve a phone call on this one.

HBO Film Inspires

Originally Published Around 10 March

Though many of my Marine friends and I were rightfully skeptical of HBO’s original movie “Taking Chance” before it aired, (Hollywood’s not been friendly toward the military for many years now) after seeing it, we’ve all been quite impressed.

“Taking Chance” is based on the true story of Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel Mike Strobl’s journey while escorting home another Marine, Lance Corporal Chance Phelps, who was killed in Iraq during April of 2004.

The film doesn’t reveal an agenda, it only shares Strobl’s story, and Chance’s, and it does so superbly.

We’ve all reported cases of the television set becoming blurry while we watched.

HBO beautifully captures the story, the emotion, and the moment. The film reminds us of why war is so difficult, whether you’ve been there or not, even long after the fact.

In Lieutenant Colonel Strobl’s case, it shows the emotional struggle and guilt of many who don’t feel like they’ve done their part.

It shares a quite poignant moment with a Sergeant who was right there with Chance when he was killed; quite representative of the challenges faced by those who were there.

“Taking Chance” does more than share a piece of history and a story of sacrifice. It reveals the personal cost of war amongst those who fight them. And for all, the cost is different.

Though the story stays true to itself, it really does give important glimpses into how and why veterans and their families endure what they do.

As such, maybe it will help someone understand why their Marine or soldier “just had to go” over there.

There may be an answer about why their soldier who did go can’t seem to forgive him or herself for things that happened.

There are burdens that never seem to fall and can’t ever seem to be shared.

It can help us understand those who visit the grave of a buddy and cry until they can’t cry anymore. For some it’s therapeutic, not so much for others.

Even when you’ve been there, it helps you grasp why some you know crawl in a bottle afterward, while others try to hide from the memories. They make themselves scarce and the last citing is of them looking rather Bohemian before they’re simply gone.

Others bottle it all up and either cope or do not. Emotions on the extremes are not uncommon. Nor are sudden revelations years after the fact.

The movie may help others gain some empathy for the families of those who serve. They deal with the nightmare of the white buses taking their loved ones to war, the white car bringing Marines in dress uniforms with awful news, and everything in between.

It may help us understand why some soldiers have to keep going back into the battle, while others battle ghosts and sleeplessness at home.

We can also watch “Chance” and understand the infinite pride for our Marine Corps. It shows why the brotherhood established in war is a lifelong bond and commitment amongst those who’ve shared it.

And yet for others, it was all really no big deal, which is awesome for them, but keeps friends and family on edge as they “wait for the other shoe to drop.”

Yes, a well done HBO movie about a Marine and all the lives he touched can uncover that much, reveal that many answers, and inspire that much emotion. Well done, HBO.

Second Amendment Attacked From Two Directions

Originally Published in Early March

While perpetually in the cross-hairs of those groups trying to destroy the Second Amendment, the right to keep and bear arms has recently come under direct attack from both the White House and Congress.

The attacks from both fronts weren’t unexpected though.

Last week the Attorney General announced he will seek a ban on “assault weapons,” which has always been the broad reaching term used by gun-ban advocates designating any semi-automatic weapon and/or weapon with a detachable magazine as an assault weapon. Their target usually includes most standard hunting rifles, shotguns, and handguns.

Those who studied Barack Obama’s legislative history understood long before the November election that he was a gun grabber from way back. His record of attacking the 2nd Amendment is atrocious.

The nomination of Eric Holder as Attorney General with his abysmal record of assaulting gun ownership and gun owner’s rights was congruent with Obama’s philosophy.

So the actions of this dynamic duo come as no surprise, and demonstrate why the two of them have been the best thing for ammunition and gun sales in a long time.

Record sales of arms and ammunition have been reported across the nation for several months now. An educated public, informed about Obama’s legislative record and true intent, didn’t buy his empty rhetoric. Despite his pleas to the contrary, Americans knew he stood against the 2nd Amendment and have been arming themselves anyway; and rightfully so.

Nor have freedom loving Americans been swayed by those who’ve criticized their purchases, belittling their gun and ammo buying decisions as unfounded hysteria. It’s now proven that their decisions were quite grounded in reality.

Supporters of the Second Amendment knew what was coming. Obama and Holder have proven them right.

The attack from Congress was also expected. It seems to be a yearly tradition.

Congressman Bobby Rush, Democrat-Illinois, has introduced HR 45, the Blair Holt’s Firearms Licensing and Record of Sales Act.

This piece of legislation requires mandatory written firearms testing, licenses for all gun owners, and government access to gun owners’ mental health records. It includes restrictions on who can own a firearm, and places restrictions on sales and storage of weapons. Additionally, it empowers the government to track the ownership and whereabouts of all guns (a sure path to widespread confiscation).

It requires background checks for purchases, forces an individual to submit to inspections of records, and empowers government authorities to inspect the manner in which weapons are stored in the home. It criminalizes gun owners moving without informing authorities or reporting loss or theft of a firearm. Not surprisingly, it places an intrusive, oppressive amount of power with the Attorney General to judge and enforce the legislation.

Though the attack itself is not a surprise, its wide-sweeping nature is. Typically attacks against the Second Amendment have come incrementally. A ban here and a restriction there on the way to the ultimate goal of tearing down our rights has been the modus operandi.

But this bill goes for the whole nine yards at once. Though it doesn’t request an all-out ban on guns, it throws nearly every obstacle imaginable in the way of gun ownership.

While many liberties are at risk with the current gluttonous rate of government growth and those risks are clouded by the fog of size and rapidity of said growth, make no mistake, this is one area where the risk to your liberties is crystal clear.