Thursday, April 24, 2014

Barker's Newsbites: Thursday, April 24, 2014


Please say a prayer for my sister-in-law Vicki who is battling cancer.

A Response to My Buddy L.B.C.




The other day, in response to my post of April 22, my friend L.B.C. responded with the following (edited) commentary/questions:

Ha, ha, Bill; that was great! I read and enjoyed your new entry.

Two thoughts: 1) In a letter to James Madison in 1789 Jefferson suggests his idea that the Constitution be rewritten every generation (19 years according to French mortality charts at the time). He felt that the earth belongs to the living at that each generation should make its own rules.

(Also, each generation should also clear its debts so as not to encumber the next.)

What are your thoughts?

2) I'm not quite sure what you meant by "redistribution of wealth;" are we talking Wall Street here or social programs aimed at helping the poor? Please clarify.

Otherwise, with the exception of the belief that we need be the strongest military power on earth, I basically agree with you.

Have a great day!

* * * * * *

So... allow me to respond!

First... allow me to address your last point - military strength.

Of course I want America to be the strongest military power on Earth - who would you rather take up the mantle... China? Russia?

(*RUEFUL SMILE*)

Does this mean I desire a militarized America? Certainly not! Just the opposite! Frankly, I believe far too much is spent on "defense" (actually "offense" nowadays) and that President Eisenhower was right to warn us of an entrenched military-industry complex.

I believe America has far too many treaty commitments...

Believing America should be able to respond anywhere at any time doesn't equate to believing America should be everywhere at all times. We have far too many troops, bases, and resources abroad. It's long past time that we unhooked our "trip wire" presence in South Korea. As to Europe... we should have largely removed our forces following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

But all this noted... my initial comment remains my position: America should remain the strongest military power on earth. Peace through strength!

(Note... "Peace through strength," not "Our way or else." Not "Might makes right.")

Next... the Jefferson quotes:

No. I certainly don't believe the Constitution should be rewritten every 19 years.

(*GRIN*)

(*CHUCKLE*)

As previously noted, the Founders gave us an Amendment process.

I believe that while not perfect, our Founding document was... is... close enough. Coupled and bonded to the Declaration of Independence... yep... close enough.

Perhaps down the road I'll post my thoughts on how - if I were so empowered - I'd change the Constitution... add to it... subtract from it... but for now - for the sake of brevity and clarity - I'll simply stick to my guns...

(Get it? Guns! A little Second Amendment humor...)

...and rest my case upon the existence of the Amendment process.

As to debt encumbrance... hmm... very, very interesting!

I've actually put a great deal of thought into this topic! I'm on the same wavelength with Jefferson! The question is... how do we reconcile pragmatism with responsibility in a democratic Republic where absolute freedom of movement is not simply a Right but a cultural and societal reality?

All I can come up with is restricting bonding. Perhaps requiring super-majority votes... repayment mandated over a short period of time so that those elected officials who supported the bonding mechanism as a means of increasing spending would be tied to the pain of repayment...

(*PAUSE*)

We definitely need reform. Bottom line, government finances must... must... be brought in line more closely with how responsible individuals, families, and businesses budget and oversee their financial affairs.

Finally... you asked me to clarify my thoughts on "redistribution of wealth."

Is taxation redistribution of wealth? No. Not in the sense I use the term. For me taxation is a necessary evil so as to finance necessary government expenditures for the common good. (And I'm using "common good" as the Founders did - not as "progressives" do.)

I don't want government to get one cent more than it absolutely needs...

(*PAUSE*)

Yes. I understand that "need" is in the eye of the beholder. This is a blog post, though, not a tome, a treatise, or even a thesis. Therefore... I'll trust readers to pick up on what I mean by "absolutely needs."

Sticking with taxes...

I believe first we need to re-evaluate where our taxes go and in what degree. If we are truly a Republic and beyond that we believe a bottom up (rather than top down) governance is best, shouldn't our local government... village... town... county... state... be where the majority of our tax dollars go? Don't local authorities - "We the People" at the most basic level - know best what's "absolutely necessary?" Shouldn't federal taxes be a minor part of our yearly tax payments?

Next...

What's a reasonable "floor?" The least any of us should be asked to pay? One percent? I'd go with that. Just as a concept. Simply to buttress the point "we're all in this together." On the flip side, what should be the "ceiling?" Certainly not above 49.999%! Certainly each of us is entitled to keep at the very least half of what our labor returns to us - and yes, a smidgen more!

I believe that when government... governments plural, the composite parts of our federal union... demand more than half of an American's income... we have a major problem on our hands.

Welfare? Social "redistribution of wealth" is out of control. Are there people in need? Yes. Should those needs be addressed partially by government? Yes. (But mainly they should be addressed by individuals and organizations... private charities...) But as for government's role... that should be exercised at the lowest level... the village level... town and county... citizens boards similar to draft boards where cases are examined, decided, and overseen by those in the best position to do so.

I could go on and on... (Heck... I have gone on and on via previous blog postings. Search the archives!) I could address tax policy further... share my views on various types of taxation... get into inheritance taxes... address middle-class entitlements... get into Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, even unemployment!

I won't though. Not here. Not this second. (But ask me specific questions and I'll answer them! Leave your questions in the comment section of this post and I'll answer them!)

So... how'd I do? Did I do a credible job in tackling the comments and questions posed?

I hope so...

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Re-Civilize America... Let Our Citizens Drink!


One of my heroes...
*  *  *  *  *  *
The National Minimum Drinking Age Act, passed by Congress 30 years ago this July, is a gross violation of civil liberties and must be repealed.

(*STANDING OVATION*)

It is absurd and unjust that young Americans can vote, marry, enter contracts, and serve in the military at 18 but cannot buy an alcoholic drink in a bar or restaurant. The age 21 rule sets the United States apart from all advanced Western nations and lumps it with small or repressive countries like Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Indonesia, Qatar, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates.

* WELL... NOT REALLY FAIR TO THROW MUSLIM COUNTRIES IN THE MIX...

Congress was stampeded into this puritanical law by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), who with all good intentions were wrongly intruding into an area of personal choice exactly as did the hymn-singing 19th-century Temperance crusaders, typified by Carrie Nation smashing beer barrels with her hatchet.

Temperance fanaticism eventually triumphed and gave us 14 years of Prohibition.

That in turn spawned the crime syndicates for booze smuggling, laying the groundwork for today’s global drug trade. Thanks a lot, Carrie!

Now that marijuana regulations have been liberalized in Colorado...

* AN ISSUE I'M STILL ON THE FENCE ON... STILL GO BACK AND FORTH ON...

...it’s time to strike down this dictatorial national law.

* HEAR! HEAR!

Government is not our nanny. The decrease in drunk-driving deaths in recent decades is at least partly attributable to more uniform seat-belt use and a strengthening of DWI penalties. Today, furthermore, there are many other causes of traffic accidents, such as the careless use of cell phones or prescription drugs like Ambien – implicated in the recent trial and acquittal of Kerry Kennedy for driving while impaired.

* JUSTICE IS OFTEN BLIND WHEN IT COMES TO THE RICH, POWERFUL, AND LIBERAL.

Learning how to drink responsibly is a basic lesson in growing up — as it is in wine-drinking France or in Germany, with its family-oriented beer gardens and festivals. Wine was built into my own Italian-American upbringing, where children were given sips of my grandfather’s home-made wine. This civilized practice descends from antiquity. Beer was a nourishing food in Egypt and Mesopotamia, and wine was identified with the life force in Greece and Rome: In vino veritas (in wine, truth). Wine as a sacred symbol of unity and regeneration remains in the Christian Communion service. Virginia Woolf wrote that wine with a fine meal lights a “subtle and subterranean glow, which is the rich yellow flame of rational intercourse.”

* AND I'LL DRINK TO ALL OF THAT!

What this cruel 1984 law did is deprive young people of safe spaces where they could happily drink cheap beer, socialize, chat, and flirt in a free but controlled public environment. Hence in the 1980s we immediately got the scourge of crude binge drinking at campus fraternity keg parties, cut off from the adult world. Women in that boorish free-for-all were suddenly fighting off date rape. Club drugs — Ecstasy, methamphetamine, ketamine (a veterinary tranquilizer) — surged at raves for teenagers and on the gay male circuit scene.

* FOLKS... THIS IS ABSOLUTELY TRUE! WE'VE ALL SEEN IT! WE'RE ALL AWARE OF IT! WE NEED TO CORRECT THE 1984 MISTAKE!

Alcohol relaxes, facilitates interaction, inspires ideas, and promotes humor and hilarity. Used in moderation, it is quickly flushed from the system, with excess punished by a hangover. But deadening pills, such as today’s massively over-prescribed anti-depressants, linger in body and brain and may have unrecognized long-term side effects. Those toxic chemicals, often manufactured by shadowy firms abroad, have been worrisomely present in a recent uptick of unexplained suicides and massacres. Half of the urban professional class in the U.S. seems doped on meds these days.

(*NOD*)

As a libertarian, I support the decriminalization of marijuana, but there are many problems with pot. From my observation, pot may be great for jazz musicians and Beat poets, but it saps energy and willpower and can produce physiological feminization in men.

* ARE YOU READIJNG THIS, FOLKS? I DON'T KNOW ABOUT "FEMINIZATION," BUT THIS ENERGY AND WILLPOWER THING...
(*SHRUG*)

* WHAT  CAN I SAY? AM I AN ANTI-STONER DRUNK? YEAH... GUILTY AS CHARGED. A CULTURAL BIAS? AN IDEOLOGICAL BIAS? YEAH... SURE... BUT AS I WROTE ABOVE, I AM INDEED ON THE FENCE WITH EQUATING ALCOHOL USE WITH DRUG USE.


Also, it is difficult to measure the potency of plant-derived substances like pot. With brand-name beer or liquor, however, purchased doses have exactly the same strength and purity from one continent to another, with no fear of contamination by dangerous street additives like PCP.

Exhilaration, ecstasy, and communal vision are the gifts of Dionysus, god of wine. Alcohol’s enhancement of direct face-to-face dialogue is precisely what is needed by today’s technologically agile generation, magically interconnected yet strangely isolated by social media.

Clumsy hardcore sexting has sadly supplanted simple hanging out over a beer at a buzzing dive.

By undermining the art of conversation, the age 21 law has also had a disastrous effect on our arts and letters, with their increasing dullness and mediocrity. This tyrannical infantilizing of young Americans must stop!

Barker's Newsbites: Wednesday, April 23, 2014


Better a late start than no start at all...!


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A Shout-Out To My Friend L.B.C.


God Bless Facebook!

(There! I said it!)

I'll admit it - the only reason I ever signed on to FB was because I needed to do so as a means of following the planning for my 30th high school reunion a few years back.

I've gotta admit, though... old friends... re-connections... new friends... all the photos, jokes, stories...

Yep. There's plenty of crap on FB. That said... there's plenty of good stuff too!

L.B.C. was actually a classmate of mine... a classmate who married a childhood friend of mine with whom I'd had a falling out. (My fault!

She and I didn't run in the same circles, but of course we knew each other.

Anyway... once I got on FB my "former" buddy and I reestablished our ties through common bonds, interests, and memories. Next thing I know... I'm friends with his wife... my former classmate... L.B.C. It turns out we have lots in common as well! 

Anyway... common interests and friendship doesn't mean people are always gonna agree on everything. That's cool. As everyone knows, my big "thing" is politics... and economics... and history... foreign affairs... governance... philosophy... ethics...

(*GUFFAW*)

So... a few days ago a conversation about personal financial responsibility branched out to a discussion on banking... which then focused on "bad bankers"... and then touched upon Thomas Jefferson and his contemporaries...

(*STILL CHUCKLING*)

Anyway... at one point I suggested L.B.C. check out my blog. She did. Next think I know the conversation moves to the Tea Party, the Koch Brothers, and Monsanto!

(*CHOKING BECAUSE I'M LAUGHING SO HARD*)

So... in honor of L.B.C. allow me to reiterate my general thoughts on the Tea Party:

First and foremost, there is no unified "Tea Party" in the sense there's a Republican Party and Democratic Party.

When referring to the "Tea Party," the most inclusive description of those who would consider themselves "members" applies to constitutional and economic issues. Pretty much anyone who would consider himself or herself a "Tea Partier" is well versed in the history, text, and meaning of the Constitution and views the Constitution as the Supreme Law of the Land with the Amendment Process being the only legitimate method of changing the meaning of the document (and it's Amendments) in terms of how's it was written, read and adhered to from the perspective of those Founders and post-Founders who created our Supreme Law of the Land 1788 thru 1992.

(*EXHALE*)

As to economic issues... Tea Partiers believe in financial responsibility, free markets, and the invisible hand; we hate crony capitalism as much... and perhaps even more... than we hate socialism. Tea Partiers believe in small government centered at the lowest level (villages, towns, counties, states) closest to the People.

Are Tea Partiers "anti-government." No. Anti-big government, yes... anti-out of control government, yes... libertarian-leaning government... yes! 

Now... beyond such broad statements as I've already posted... what does the (so-called) Tea Party stand for? Well, that's not a simply answerable question due to the fact that, as previous stated, there is no unified "Tea Party" with an actual platform as such. (And even if there was a platform... well... how many Republicans or Democrats believe in 100% of their Party's platform?)

All I can tell you folks is what I believe in.

I believe in the Constitution. As written. As intended to be understood line by line as each line was ratified and put into effect as a part of the Supreme Law of the Land.

I believe America was founded as a Republic and that if it were up to me we'd still be a Republic. (Yes... I'm saying we're no longer a true Republic.)

I believe that America should be the strongest military power on earth... but... that we should not be the world's "policeman." I fear and find unAmerican the military-industrial complex Eisenhower warned us about. I believe in a foreign policy that always looks to the interests of America first in the sense of George Washington's vision of foreign policy.

I believe in individual rights... and yes... in God Given Rights above and beyond the legitimate power of any government to take away from "We the People."

I believe in fiscal prudence, limited taxation, limited governmental expenditures, and strongly opposed "redistribution" of wealth.

I believe in honesty, integrity, self-reliance, and true charity as individual conscious dictates.

I could go on and on and on... but simply browsing this blog will tell the interested reader pretty much anything and everything he or she would want to know about me and my beliefs.

My bottom line as far as the "Tea Party" is concerned...

(*PAUSE*)

If one opposes the Tea Party... if one isn't in line with key Tea Party ideals... then one either doesn't understand what the Tea Party concept is all about... or... one rejects the fundamental American ideals upon which I place my hopes, faith, love, and beliefs in favor of so-called "progressive" (and) "fundamental" change.

To my friend L.B.C: If we disagree then we disagree. I'm always ready to discuss, and yes, debate, my views... my reality... my beliefs... but I'm also content to tailor my interactions to less divisive pursuits... "non-political" conversations.

(*WINK*)

Finally... whether one agrees or disagrees with me... I can guarantee that regular readers of my newsbites and stand-alone posts will gain knowledge... context... that otherwise they might not.

The thing about me... my ideals and philosophy... I'm not really a "Republican." I'm certainly not a "Democrat." My libertarian streak is wide but not all-encompassing. I'm pro-order but anti-establishment. I'm not a warmonger, but neither am I blind to the threats we face. (Where it gets confusing to some is where I see those threats coming from - often they come from us... particularly from the neo-cons embedded in both major Parties.)

Trust but verify...

Do unto others...

What's good for the goose...

Again... I'm pretty much an open book. Read me! Enjoy me! Learn from me!

(*CHUCKLE*)

Barker's Newsbites: Tuesday, April 22, 2014


G'mornin', folks! And a beautiful mornin' it is!

Partly cloudy...? Yep. But being a glass half full kinda guy I prefer to refer to the morn as partly sunny!

Showers expected later... in the afternoon...? Yep! Oh, well... we're all lookin' forward to a nice green spring and summer, right? We're beings made of 98% water, right? So what the hell... bring on a little rain!

Folks, it's two days after Easter and I'm still grateful for all my blessings.

As far as I know I'm healthy. Same for the the wife... same for the kid.

Rich? Nope. But doin' ok? Yeah...! Heck... we just bought a new car!  (Yep... another 2.0T - 274 hp provided by the twin-scroll turbo!)

Next month... we'll be takin' the new car (Steffi) on vacation - "The Land of the Pines." (Yep... I'm talkin' South Carolina... Charleston to be precise... no doubt with a side trip to Savannah in the cards!) Yep... our annual trip to visit Pat, Vicki, and The Boys.

Summer vacation...? We're still considering. If for whatever reason (Kim's upcoming American wedding perhaps) we decide to "go easy" on summer vacation as opposed to making it an extravaganza it'll be more out of concern for time and energy than financial constraints. 

Oh... oh... oh...! And as to the fall... it's Key West or bust! (If Ted and Mary can't accompany us... well... we'll be sad... but we'll drink for them!)

My whole point in this particular newsbites posting intro...? Nope. Not to brag! No... my purpose is to publicly give thanks! I recognize how wonderful my life is... how good I have it!

I'm grateful! Grateful to God... grateful to my wife and child for being who they are... grateful to that combination of luck and hard work that has given me an overall lifestyle which suits my needs, wants, and personality!

Folks... think about our lives compared to most people on earth! We have it friggin' made! Hey... I'm not sayin' we're not destroying America. We are! (They are!) I catalog my evidence day in and day out right here on this blog! But... but... in terms of "lifestyle"... while Mary and I may not live in a mansion, our overall lifestyle is pretty high end. Vacations... restaurants... cars...

We're warm and dry in the winter... cool and dry in the summer...

Our bellies are full... (OK... ok... "overly filled" in my particular case... but thanks to BodyPump I'm looking damn good above the belly!)

Anyway... you folks no doubt get my point. 

Take a moment... pause... throw out a prayer of thanksgiving for your own blessings, folks! If you're not big on prayer... think about your parents... your upbringing... your best teachers and your own best decisions! Silently thank all of those who had something to do with your own success!

And, now... all this written... don't forget to check back later... tonight... tomorrow... to check out today's newsbites!


Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter Sunday Newsbites: April 20, 2014


Yep... Happy Easter Sunday, folks!

I'm posting this late on "Saturday" night because I'm busting with the news...

GUESS WHO BOUGHT A NEW CAR (yesterday, technically) ON SATURDAY?

YES...! US...!

Last week we received a free $10 Kohl's marketing outreach gift card in the mail...

(Bear with me! I'll get back to the new car in a moment!)

 ...good through this (now past) Saturday. So... today... we went out to find something to use it on rather than let it expire and go to waste.

Anyway... I found a clearance polo shirt at the Kohl's in Ramsey, NJ for $12 and so with no sales tax on clothing in NJ... I ended up getting a (originally priced) $36 shirt for $2.

Well, folks... I was so damned happy with my bargain that I said "what the hell" and the next thing you know we were at the Hyundai dealership a mile up the road trading in Sammie, our (now former) 2011 Sonata 2.0T with 58,649 miles (with the bumper-to-bumper warranty set to expire at 60K) for a brand spanking new 2014 Sonata 2.0T.

(Stephanie the Sonata... "Steffi" for short!)

In all seriousness, we had been talking about perhaps looking into turning Sammie in if we could get a good enough deal, but on the other hand, today's actual buy can be looked upon as an "impulse purchase."

(*GUFFAW*)

Yep... I know... Bill Barker, the guy who researches every  purchase beyond pocket change to death "impulse purchasing" a friggin' new car...

(*STILL LAUGHING*)

I tell ya... I crack myself up...!!!

Anyway... that's my car story I couldn't wait till morning to share!

Hopefully I'll get a chance to post an actual newsbite or two tomorrow, but if I don't get around to it... I ask your forgiveness in advance.

(*WINK*)

Have a GREAT EASTER everyone! I know I will!