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Thursday, December 27, 2007

Blood for Oil

                    Blood for Oil

Congress has just passed a bill that calls for raising the CAFE Standards (Corporate Automobile Fuel Economy) by 40% by the year 2020.  This bill passed overwhelmingly and the President has already said he will sign it into law.
I didn’t realize that Congress now has the power to simply pass a bill that will change science.  How about a bill to turn water into Jack Daniels?  Or a law that requires a piece of string to have just one end?  Both of those laws would make just about as much sense as Congress mandating scientific advances that make it possible for automobiles to suddenly improve their economy by 40%.  This is a great bill for conspiracy theorists who contend that “Detroit” could have doubled our fuel economy years ago, but they have a deal with the big oil companies not to do so.

And whatever happened to the US Constitution?  Where in the Constitution is Congress given the power to enter into the marketplace and tell a seller how his product must perform?  It’s not there.  Yet this foolish bill was passed overwhelmingly by know-nothings who have no concept of how a free market works, by pie-in-the sky liberals, and by gutless conservatives who know better.  After all, who can be against better fuel economy?

What this bill really means is that Congress and the President have signed a death warrant for thousands of Americans who will die in small, unsafe cars.  This bill will hit the young and the poor the hardest since they are the ones who buy the most inexpensive cars.  Get ready for the great American shrinking car, because that is the car in your future.  

This is a typical liberal solution to a problem—run away from it.  Stick your head in the sand.  And if we must do something, let’s reduce individual freedom.  Let’s mandate what kind and size of cars Americans can drive.  We know better than they do, so instead of solving the energy problem, let’s make Americans give up more of
their freedom.

Where are the courageous congressmen and congresswomen who will address the energy issue head on?  It doesn’t take hand wringing, just common sense to get this problem behind us.  Windmills won’t do it.  Bio fuels won’t do it. 
The energy crisis can be solved by taking just four simple steps:

    1.  Convert oil and gas fired power plants to nuclear power plants. 
         Build more nuclear power plants to handle growing energy needs.

    2.  Allow offshore drilling of our vast, untapped reserves of oil and
         natural gas.

    3.  Open up Alaska (as well as Montana, Utah, and Wyoming) to
         exploration and drilling.

    4.  Expand and build more refining capacity.

By taking these four steps we can put our energy problems behind us in ten years.  Commonsense—where have you gone?

Friday, December 21, 2007

Forces for Good

Forces for Good
This book, Forces for Good, has been a long time in coming. In the 1980’s Tom Peters and others helped to revolutionize the for-profit sector of the US through the publication of books such as In Search of Excellence and A Passion for Excellence. Jim Collins added to this treasure with the publication of Built to Last and Good to Great.

While these books made passing reference to the nonprofit sector, the truth is that most books devoted to nonprofits dealt with the process—how to build a better board, how to raise money, etc. There weren’t any books that provided an empirical analysis of high impact nonprofits, as In Search of Excellence provided for excellent for-profit organizations. That huge void has now been filled and filled admirably by Leslie R. Crutchfield and her co-author, Heather McLeod Grant as presented in the book, Forces for Good (Jossey-Bass).

Where In Search of Excellence identified twelve practices of "America’s Best-Run Companies," Forces for Good identifies the six practices of high-impact nonprofit organizations. In other words, Crutchfield and Grant identify practices common to nonprofit organizations that focus on results, rather than on the process.
They put it this way, "We get caught up in measuring the wrong things, because the things that really matter are often more difficult to measure." AOL founder, Steve Case, says it this way in his introduction to Forces for Good, "This thoughtful book provides what business people, policy makers, philanthropic investors, and nonprofit leaders have needed for a long time—an intelligent articulate analysis of the key factors required to generate successful, lasting outcomes in the nonprofit space."

Historically donors and philanthropists have judged the worthiness of a nonprofit on a single dimensional basis—how effective and efficient the organization is in raising funds, period. That was it and still is it for well-intentioned groups like the American Institute of Philanthropy (AIP) who basically limit their analysis to the effectiveness of an organization in collecting funds. Is your cost ratio to raise a dollar good? If so, you are a great organization. If not, you are an organization unworthy of support. In fairness, AIP does endeavor to take into account the amount of money allocated to overhead vs. that spent on projects and programs, but in truth, creative accounting and cost allocation can present a less-than-complete picture of a nonprofit organization. Moreover, such an analysis does not even attempt to determine how effective the group is in reaching its objectives, i.e. is it really a force for good?

In fact, Crutchfield and Grant have this to say about the various analysis groups which limit their evaluation of costs, ratios, etc. –"These ratings web sites can tell you which groups have the lowest overhead ratios, but they can’t tell you which have had the most impact." (page 18) They address this topic again near the close of the book (page 203), "The problem with using these metrics is that they fall into the trap of measuring financial inputs or ratios as a proxy for success, rather than measuring impact, or the amount of change accomplished with that investment. Worse yet, they assume that nonprofits can implement programs without any infrastructure or support. They may encourage donors to support groups that spend too little on people, IT systems, or management, which can lead to weak organizations at best, or accounting trickery at worst."
Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, calls Forces for Good "Inspired and inspiring." David Gergen, a professor at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, says, "For people who want to change the world—and who doesn’t? – This book provides an invaluable road map. Bravo!"

This is the most important book on evaluating the impact and worthiness of donating to a nonprofit that I have ever read. If you are starting a nonprofit, work for one, or are a donor to nonprofits, this book is a must read.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Sean Taylor, RIP

Sean Taylor, RIP

On Tuesday, November 27th, the news of Sean Taylor’s death hit the Washington, DC area hard. Taylor was an up-and-coming, all-pro safety for the Washington Redskins. Just 24 years old, this young man had his entire future in front of him. Although he had some troubles with the law several years earlier, he had put those issues behind him and was on his way to a great NFL career when he was shot by four young men who were attempting to rob his home. It was a tragedy indeed, not just for Taylor or the Washington Redskins, but also for the four young men.

I’ve seen those young men before. No, not those particular young men, but young men of the same mold headed for prison, or worse. For more than 20 years my wife and I have been involved with Youth for Tomorrow, a home for at-risk boys and girls, founded by Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs. A man with strong faith and true compassion, Gibbs wanted to do something in the Washington area to help turn around the lives of young men (and young women) who fit the general description of the four boys who shot and killed Sean Taylor. 

Who are these young men? Well, the ones who come to YFT have a hard edge. Many, if not most, have been involved with drugs, both using and selling. Some have been involved in car jackings and drive by shootings. They’re angry. They don’t have a good male role model, and they are without hope. At Joe Gibbs’ Youth for Tomorrow they learn to shed their anger, they live with good male role models, and they gain hope and faith. It’s too bad that YFT didn’t get to those young men before it was too late. Unfortunately there are many more where these boys came from, and today girls have the same problems too.

Sean Taylor’s death set Washington, DC back on its heels. We were shocked. We were stunned. Why, we asked, did this happen? 

Death hits survivors like a bucket of cold water. The death of Sean Taylor, or any loved one, brings us back to reality. It forces us to focus on our own mortality. The tears we shed may be for the one who died, but there’s nothing more we can do for Sean or anyone close to us who has died. More likely, the tears we shed are for our self. We too must eventually face death.

I used to joke that if you can multiply your age by two and think you will still be alive, then you are young. I’m long past that calculation. In fact, it really was just a joke, because all of us know of friends and family that die young. But whether we die young or die old, we will die. 

And since the actuarial tables show that the average person only lives to his or her 70s, we know that our time will come. More importantly, since we will be dead forever, don’t you think it’s worthwhile to at least give some thought to where you will be spending eternity?

Perhaps you’re an atheist or an agnostic and you think that once you are dead that’s all there is. That is what the gamblers in Las Vegas would call a high risk bet. The trouble is that while you may think the odds are that you are right, if there is even the slightest chance you are wrong, the downside is horrible and irreversible. 

Even if you believe in some vague God, don’t you think it’s worth your while to try to find out who that God is? As for me, I believe that Jesus is the Christ who was promised in the Old Testament. I believe that through faith in Him I will spend eternity where there are no tears and no troubles. I’m 100% convinced that He died for my sins and rose victorious from the grave so that I too can rise and live again. You’re going to be dead forever. Don’t you think it’s worth checking out the God of the Bible? You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Democratic Field

The Democratic Field

This year’s Democratic Presidential field is unusual. I can’t imagine John F. Kennedy or Harry Truman feeling comfortable with this group of candidates. There are no perfect candidates and no perfect presidents, but over the years there has been a general understanding that both parties put the country over politics. That is where the term "loyal opposition" originated, if I’m not mistaken.

Today, however, it appears that politics triumphs country on the Democratic side. Good economic news is bad news for the Democrats and they and their allies in the news media spin it that way. Is there a hurricane? It must be George Bush’s fault. Even the weather can’t escape being politicized. Good and indisputable news that the surge is working must be denied and doubted. 

Where did such partisanship come from? What happened to "politics stops at the water’s edge?"
In some ways it can be traced back to 1948 when young Democratic activist George McGovern refused to back Harry Truman and bolted to Norman Thomas’ Socialist Party. It’s hard to imagine what George found so bad about big spending, high tax, somewhat shady Harry Truman. He probably didn’t like it that Harry had the courage and good sense to drop the bomb to end the War in the Pacific Theater. A decision, by the way, that saved hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of American and Japanese lives.

Perhaps it was the fact that Harry was just too much of an America-first patriot for George. Regardless, since 1972 when George McGovern and the prairie radicals took over the Democratic Party, it has never been the same. George failed in his bid for the White House, but the Democratic Party has been firmly in the hands of the prairie radical element since 1972. Bill Clinton likes to talk about following in the footsteps of JFK, but he and Hillary are really children of George McGovern, not Jack Kennedy.

The views of John Kennedy on foreign policy and taxes in the 1960s would make him an outcast in today’s Democratic Party. After all, it was Kennedy who sent "advisors" into Vietnam and his running mate, Lyndon Johnson, who prosecuted the Vietnam War.

Those who were rioting outside the convention in Chicago in 1968 are the same folks who are calling our soldiers terrorists and Nazis today. They are the same folks who are running for the Democratic nomination for President and who think that the United States is far, far from being a great nation. They believe that this is a terrible nation of bigots, racists, war mongers, planet desecraters, evil capitalists, and imperialists. They reject traditional moral values and free markets. They can’t wait for the day that America becomes like Europe—a weak, socialist economic basket case.

Hillary Clinton is ambitious for power beyond words. She wants to bring socialist medicine to the US, not because it will result in better medical care (she has never once said that), but because it will result in equal care (except for elitists like Hillary and Bill, of course).

Barak Obama hasn’t even served one full term in the US Senate, yet he apparently feels he is ready to sit in the Oval Office. He too, calls for an immediate withdrawal of American troops, even in the face of unchallengeable evidence that the surge is working and the tide of the war has turned.

Trial lawyer extraordinaire and environmental hypocrite in chief, John Edwards, advocates policies that would put everyone in the poor house. And the rest of the field follows similar lines—pull out the troops, socialize medical service, raise taxes, grant blanket amnesty, cut the military, etc.

It’s a depressing field for a Party that brought our nation leaders like Truman and Kennedy. They were Americans first, and politicians second. They also understood a thing or two about economics and foreign policy. Sadly, the same can’t be said for this year’s candidates put forward by the Democratic Party.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Santa Claus

                        Santa Claus

Christmas will soon be upon us. That being the case, I thought it might be fun and enlightening to share the story of the real Saint Nicholas. Courtesy of Pastor John Eich, what follows is the story of the real Nicholas, along with Pastor Eich’s personal views in regard to the celebration of Christmas.

"Nicholas was born in AD 270 in the seacoast town of Patara in Asia Minor, which is present day Turkey. His wealthy parents died in a plague while he was little. As he grew older, he traveled and enjoyed using his money to help people. When he was nearly 50 he decided to become a pastor. This is when his story really begins. 

Today doctors wear green, nurses wear white, and football players wear pads, jerseys, and helmets. Ministers at the time of Nicholas wore a uniform too. They wore a long red coat to remind people that the blood of Christ cleanses us from all sin. The stole around the collar was a symbol of the yoke of Jesus, a simple reminder we are all his servants. The hat wasn’t a stocking cap, but a miter symbolizing the helmet of salvation. 

For 22 years Nicholas watched over his church. He loved having children sit on his lap while he told them stories about Jesus. One of his other joys was gift giving. Once a man in his church went bankrupt. In order to pay his bills, the man was going to sell his three beautiful daughters into slavery, a common practice in those days. When Nicholas heard about it, he collected an offering and in the dead of night tossed the bag of gold into an open window in the man’s house. In other cases, if the windows or doors were locked, he would drop the gift down the chimney, which often had stockings hanging nearby to dry from washing. 

Nicholas died in AD 342 on Dec. 6. By then he was well known in the area. Many Christians began to follow his example in Christ and gave gifts to the poor. It became popular to hold a feast and worship service in his memory on Dec. 6. People would dress up like him, hold children on their laps, and give them gifts. 

Nicholas soon became a patron saint, like a sports hero. In Holland the Dutch pronounced his name as Saint Nicklaus. As they came to America and spoke quickly, to the untrained ear it sounded like they were saying "Santa Claus." The Germans, because of the Lutheran Reformation, focused their attention on the Christ child. In German the baby Jesus is called the "Krist Kindle." Again spoken quickly this would sound like "Kris Kringle," which later was applied to the Santa Claus legend because Christmas was celebrated near the time of St. Nicholas’ day. 

The Puritans, however, made it illegal to mention any saint’s name. During the 1600s it was forbidden to light a candle, exchange a gift, or sing carols. Still, people will celebrate what they want. If we don’t teach them how to sing and feast and pretend to the glory of God, then the world will teach them how to do it without glorifying God. That’s what happened to St. Nicholas.
In 1820 a dentist named Clement Moore wrote a poem for his sick child to cheer him up. Called "Twas the night before Christmas," the poem told children that St. Nicholas lived at the North Pole, drove a sleigh pulled by eight reindeer, and had a tummy that shook like a bowl full of jelly. (Actually he was probably thin from fasting.) Forty years later Thomas Nast drew a cartoon picture showing St. Nicholas with a long white beard (probably true), rosy cheeks (probably not), dressed in red (true), and with a sack of toys on his back (probably not, since the people needed money and food more). 

Parents should be aware that fostering a belief in the Santa Claus of today may backfire later. A child looks to parents to furnish everything -- food, comfort, courage, and truth. When a parent says, "Yes, there really is a Santa Claus, and his reindeer can really fly," he is no longer playing a game. That parent is lending his personal authority as a parent to the myth, giving it the ring of truth. 

What happens later to a parent’s credibility when the child finds out that the story isn’t true? Maybe the other things a parent has said about safety, moral values, right or wrong aren’t true either. 

If you once believed in a man who knew what you were doing, who had amazing abilities, and who gave you nice things, and he turned out to be a fake, why should you believe in another man who knows what you are doing, has amazing abilities, gives you nice things -- Jesus Christ? 

If you get burned once, why get burned the second time? Wouldn’t it be better to be honest with our children right from the start, and teach them the difference between truth and make-believe?
Some people love Santa Claus so much that they forget about Jesus. Some churches burn the present day Santa Claus in effigy. Both extremes are too much. It’s better to remember the real Nicholas, who can serve as an example of how to really keep Christmas. 

Don’t think "Look what the world is coming to." Rather think "Look who’s coming into the world!" 

A little girl was once asked, "What is a saint?" Thinking of the heroes of faith who are pictured in stained glass windows she answered, "A saint is someone who lets the light in." That’s how we best perhaps can use the myths about Santa Claus. Let’s use them to let the "light in," Jesus Christ the light of the world. Let’s keep Santa Claus always kneeling at the manger of his Savior and ours. Merry CHRISTmas!"

Thank you, Pastor Eich, for enlightening us in regard to the origin of Santa Claus. And let me take this opportunity to wish each of you a joyous Christmas celebration.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Political Parties are Private Organizations

Political Parties are Private Organizations

It is surprising to me how little understanding individuals and even radio talk show hosts have of our political process. A few days ago a local talk show host took the Republican Party of Virginia to task for requiring individuals who want to participate in the GOP Presidential Primary to sign a loyalty oath. A loyalty oath to participate in a party’s primary or convention is not something new in Virginia. It’s been around for many years.

While I happen to believe asking someone who participates in a primary or convention for the purpose of selecting that party’s nominee is a good idea, that’s not the point. 

The Republican and Democratic parties are private organizations. In our free society, any individual or group of individuals may set up a new political party and go through the necessary hoops to get on the ballot. That’s why there is a Conservative Party and a Liberal Party on the ballot in New York. That’s why there is an American Independent Party. Unfortunately, most people don’t really understand or comprehend the ramifications of the Parties being private organizations.

It could be either a smart or a stupid decision to limit participation in the selection of a Party’s nominee for local, state, or national office. That’s something those who are members of the Party can argue over. But make no mistake about it, local, state, and national party leaders aren’t dummies. They have specific political goals in mind, but they also know that having goals is meaningless if you can’t win.

Most folks active in political parties hate so-called "open primaries" where an individual can vote to select a Republican nominee for Congress and then jump across the aisle and vote to select the Democratic nominee for State Attorney General. The reason they hate such "open primaries" is that if you are a Republican and your candidate for Congress is the incumbent who is assured of getting the nomination, you will likely vote to select the weakest Democratic nominee for Congress. Open primaries have inherent conflicts and do not serve the public well.

Conventions, contrary to popular opinion, are often the best vehicle for selecting party nominees. Primary voters are fickle. One stumble in a speech, or a temporary current event may cause undereducated voters to pick a weak nominee for their party. Those who generously volunteer their time to work, go door-to-door, stuff envelopes, put up signs, and stand out in the cold on election day are usually the most well-read and well-informed voters. They not only understand issues, but have specific philosophical reasons for supporting candidates of their choice.

The argument against primaries (closed or open) is to eliminate uneducated and independent voters from choosing the nominee of your party. The argument for conventions is that they more often select nominees who actually believe in something and have an agenda. These types of nominees give the public the best, most clear-cut choices in the general election.

The convention approach tends to be a more republican process when selecting political candidates, while the primary route tends to be a mobocracy which can result in poor choices by uninformed or mischievous voters.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Support Our Troops: Part II

Support Our Troops: Part II

I have previously written about Soldiers’ Angels, an outstanding and well-run volunteer organization that has been such a blessing to our men and women in uniform, especially those deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. The truth is that there are many fine groups supporting our deployed Armed Forces.

One of these groups is AdoptaPlatoon (, founded by Ida Hägg while her son was an Army Soldier deployed to Bosnia. Similar to Soldiers’ Angels, AdoptaPlatoon was started as a personal effort that blossomed into a national "Moms Across America" effort in support of our troops.
Mrs. Hägg is tireless in her efforts to bring a little bit of hometown USA to the men on the front lines of freedom. With the support of thousands of Moms, she sends things the troops need, as well as "comfort" items they would like to have, on a platoon by platoon basis. 

One of the most popular items sent by AdoptaPlatoon has been sun glasses—cool sun glasses. After all, these macho men want to look cool as well as tough, especially when they are off duty and have to face the hot sun each day. The more practical items are notes of encouragement from home and even stuffed Christmas stockings. The letters, like the one that follows, make you proud of our American men and women in uniform:

"I just wanted to send you a sincere thank you for the packages that were sent from AdoptaPlatoon and your supporters. My troops and I enjoyed the thoughtfulness of the packages. It is nice to have the support from home. This is my second tour to Iraq. For some of my troops it is their first tour over here. It is nice to have a package waiting for you after a mission. My troops and I want to thank you again for the packages, we enjoyed them very much. My soldiers wanted me to express their appreciation; it was obvious there was much time, thought, consideration, support and love packed into each box. Especially heart-warming were the cards and letters you included expressing your support for our service here in Iraq. You all have touched our hearts with care packages filled goodies, bringing a satisfying smile! Rest assured your message of support has been received by many and has certainly inspired positive influence on our platoon morale. Again, please pass on our sincerest appreciation to everyone involved with you and your organization and to the great citizens of the United States of America supporting our Armed Services. God bless you all."--SFC Jordan, GSE Platoon.

It’s hard to add to those sentiments. It is truly a privilege to have AdoptaPlatoon as a client. It’s the kind of organization we love to work for.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Thanksgiving Wishes

Thanksgiving Wishes 

Most of us have great Thanksgiving memories—trips home to be with the family, a great, sumptuous turkey dinner with pumpkin pie and all the fixings prepared by Mom. We may have even encountered a couple of blizzards along the way. Oh yes, did I forget the football games? Shame on me!

While Thanksgiving is now celebrated in other countries around the globe, it is a uniquely American holiday which originated long before there was a United States of America. The first Thanksgiving actually occurred in Virginia, in Jamestown, but the Thanksgiving we usually think of is the one that was celebrated in Plymouth, Massachusetts by the Pilgrims. In both cases, the parties took time to give thanks to God for delivering them safely across the ocean and for preserving them in the American wilderness.

We also know that they joined with the Indians in this celebration. In fact, a number of these Native Americans were instrumental in helping them to grow corn, harvest oysters and other crustaceans, and identify other edible fruits and vegetables. Together they celebrated and gave thanks for this land that is called America.

Today, you and I can be thankful for so much. It is literally impossible to count all our blessings. But first and foremost on my list is thankfulness for the freedom that was won by our forefathers in the American Revolution, and for those who have fought and died in so many wars to preserve that freedom. Like countless others before them, the men and women in uniform today deserve our gratitude, our thanks, and our support. Let’s make sure to remember them in our prayers as they continue to put their lives on the line so that we can enjoy the blessings of freedom they have secured for us.

It’s my hope that you and yours enjoyed a wonderful Thanksgiving celebration this year!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

John McCain: Political Hack

John McCain: Political Hack

In my business I have had the opportunity to meet lots of politicians. To a great extent, Republican or Democrat, conservative or liberal, they are all about the same. Their primary purpose in life is to promote themselves and grab the highest office they can acquire. Putting them into one lump, they are about the most self-serving group of people you will ever meet. Don’t get me wrong. There are exceptions on both sides of the aisle, but for the general run-of-the-mill politician, public service is about as far apart as the North Pole is from the South Pole. They are generally more interested in the perks of the office than the people they serve. It says in the US Constitution that there will be no royalty, but as Shakespeare said, "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet." They have special parking places at the airports, all expense paid junkets around the world, limousines at their beckon call, and special treatment that common people like you and I just don’t receive.

Some have even gone way beyond the pale to exercise their power to obtain perks and privileges their colleagues don’t have. Mike Mansfield was at the top of the pyramid when it came to getting the very best the taxpayers could provide. While he was Majority Leader of the US Senate he lived like royalty. And because of the power he wielded, he was able to force airlines to provide nonstop service from Washington, DC to Helena, Montana (I believe it was TWA that took one for the airline industry so that Prince Mike would take care of them). As you might imagine, a flight from Dulles Airport to Helena, Montana is not exactly a high traffic, money making route, but to appease the Senator, TWA made sure Prince Mike had his flight on his schedule to Helena.

More recently, John McCain one-upped Prince Mike. You see, the Senator didn’t like the fact that he had to travel all the way to Dulles to catch a nonstop flight to Phoenix, Arizona. What an ordeal! The fact that the regulations at close in Reagan National Airport did not allow cross country flights didn’t deter Senator McCain. Nope. He got the regs changed and here’s how he did it.

It seems that Dulles was in the process of adding underground rail transportation for the more than 30 million passengers who use the airport annually (it’s the most used airport in the DC area). This, of course, entailed building an underground tunnel to house the train. The project began several years back and has not opened yet, but is scheduled to do so in 2009, although it is well behind schedule.

One of the reasons it’s behind schedule is because His Excellency, Senator McCain, put a "hold" on construction until the Federal Aviation Administration could figure out a way for him to fly nonstop from Reagan Airport to Phoenix. Well, it took about six months, but the FAA "found out a way" to change the situation so that the Senator could have his nonstop flight to Phoenix. It didn’t matter to McCain that millions of air travelers suffered inconvenience for six additional months. What counted was getting the privileged service he deserved.

This is the same Senator McCain that has played the role of a maverick in the Senate voting against President Bush’s tax cuts, holding up judicial nominations, and authoring the onerous and unconstitutional McCain-Feingold law that restricts your free speech and mine, but not that of the drive-by media. Why did Senator McCain care about "campaign reform?" He didn’t and he doesn’t. But he got caught with his hand in the cookie jar as a member of the Keating Five and this was the only way he could get the heat off of himself.

I honor Senator McCain for his faithful service to his country as a POW. As the son of the CINCPAC Commander he suffered some of the worst abuse when he was imprisoned. But in light of his character and lack of understanding of the way a free society works, his military service, as great as it was, hardly qualifies him to be President of the United States.

As full disclosure, more than 20 years ago, I appeared voluntarily in front of a special committee set up by John McCain and his good friend, John Kerry. Both of these Vietnam veterans were catching heat for doing nothing in regard to the possibility of Americans still being held captive in North Vietnam. One of those they were catching heat from was my client, the late Colonel Jack Bailey (USAF), who, several years after being a client, did some things that were questionable. 

Anyway, instead of holding hearings to look into the stories that Americans might still be held captive, the Johns decided to go after the organizations who were pressing them for answers and after their fund raisers. It was a typical McCain-Kerry stunt and it turned out to be a bust, but it was good air time for the self righteous. So if you wonder why I feel no sympathy for John McCain in his passionate pursuit of the White House, that’s admittedly part of the reason. But make no mistake about it, John McCain is no conservative. He stands for one thing and one thing only—John McCain.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Calling on God

Calling on God

Isn’t it interesting how we think we really don’t need God in our lives until things get a little rough and then we are ready, willing, and able to call on the Almighty to get us out of our mess? That’s what the Founders did when things got rough in their contest with Great Britain. They declared a day of prayer and fasting. It’s what General Patton did when the weather got bad and he couldn’t move his troops forward. He needed good, dry weather, so he called on God.

Of course, that’s what God tells us to do. "Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you." (Psalm 50:15). But God isn’t a candy shop or a Mr. Fix-It. He isn’t only there when we think we need Him, He’s there all the time and we need Him all the time. He’s there to accept our thanks and praise and He’s there to comfort us in times of distress, and yes, He’s there to hear our prayers. In fact, God always hears the prayers of believers and He always answers their prayers. But sometimes His answer is not "yes," sometimes it could be "no," or "later."

Nevertheless, it’s refreshing to hear a powerful person humbly come before God and ask for his help. That’s exactly what Georgia Governor, Sonny Perdue, did the other day along with assorted lawmakers and ministers and he did it on the steps of the Georgia capitol building. Governor Perdue has tried filing law suits and has tried using threats, but now he’s down on his knees to the Almighty. One can hope that it’s not a last recourse, but rather a realization of the fact that just as God has power over the wind and the waves, He also has power to send rain and sunshine.

This public recognition of God is welcome in a society that has forgotten its roots. In just one generation we have forgotten that all blessings come from our Creator and that He does indeed govern the course of nations and of men.

Let’s join with Governor Perdue asking God for much needed rain in Georgia. The lakes are shrinking and the water tables are declining. Some say it’s only a matter of weeks before Atlanta itself will run out of water. And after that rain comes, let’s not forget to thank Him for the rain and all the other blessings that we take for granted each day of our lives. In fact, let’s make it a point to talk with Him each day and to count on Him not only for rain and our daily needs, but also trust in Him to take us to a perfect place (without all these problems) through faith in His son, Jesus.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Support Our Troops – Part I

Support Our Troops – Part I

If you say, "I support our troops," that’s great because tens of thousands of young men and women are on the front lines of freedom and they deserve our support. But what is it that you are doing in support of our troops? It’s nice to verbally lend support of our men and women in uniform, but there are many ways to provide real, concrete support for our young men and women in Iraq and Afghanistan (as well as in Korea and other lonely and dangerous places around the globe).

One of those ways is to give financial support to one or more of the many great troop support organizations, often led by mothers or wives of deployed men and women. In fact, in virtually every war, groups spring up spontaneously to perform this worthwhile service. For the current conflict one of these groups is Soldiers’ Angels (, a truly remarkable organization led by Patti Patton Bader. (Patti is a grand niece of General George Patton.) For the record, Soldiers’ Angels is a client of Fund Raising Strategies (; I serve as President of this company.

Patti is truly an amazing individual. When her oldest son was shipped off to Iraq, Patti began sending him a box of goodies each day. When she heard back from Brandon that the other guys in his company could also use some support and encouragement, the packages started going out in even greater quantity. But that was just the beginning.

Although Patti has an incurable disease, she didn’t let that stop her from expanding her support from her son’s unit to soldiers throughout the Iraq theater. That’s when Soldiers’ Angels was born.

Today more than 145,000 active (and I mean really active) "Angels" volunteer to help support our troops. They embroider blankets for injured troops, they sit up all night holding the hand of a wounded soldier, they ship out tons and tons of support items – everything from toiletries to X-Boxes. 

Soldiers’ Angels has given away more than 2,200 lap-tops to disabled and wounded veterans of this conflict so that they can communicate and develop skills to sustain themselves after the war is over. When needed, they send over Kevlar blankets for protection. There is literally nothing Soldiers’ Angels won’t do to help, support and encourage our troops.

Millions of dollars in goods and services are provided to America’s active duty warriors and to those who have returned home with injuries. It is impossible to list all the support given by Soldiers’ Angels to our men and women in uniform, and it’s all done out of love.

So if you say that you support our troops and want to put those words into action, I strongly recommend Soldiers’ Angels as a worthy recipient of your financial support. Maybe you even want to volunteer as an "Angel" who writes and supports men and women who serve in dangerous, lonely spots around our globe. After all, these young folks are putting their lives on the line, isn’t a little support in order? You can even donate frequent flyer mileage. The government limits travel support to the spouse or mother of soldiers, but Solders’ Angels makes sure that more family members can also travel to support their injured love one. By the way, Patti’s youngest son, Bretton, is now serving in Fallujah, Iraq. So check out the Soldiers’ Angels web site ( today, and please keep Bretton and all our men and women in uniform in your daily prayers.

Friday, November 9, 2007

A Great Read!

A Great Read!

When I read a novel or other book that I think is worthwhile, I like to tell friends and family about it. I just finished reading Missing Witness (Morrow) and this is one of the best murder mysteries I have read in a dozen years. It is really terrific. And the good news is that this is the first book by Gordon Campbell. And what a book it is!
Missing Witness is a Perry Mason thriller on steroids. Campbell is an attorney and that is a huge advantage in being able to steer the reader through the intricacies behind the scenes of a murder trial. He also gives you a good look at the goings-on in a law firm.

The gist of the story is that a newly minted lawyer (Doug McKenzie) from a prestigious law school decides to accept an opportunity to team up with a legendary criminal lawyer (Dan Morgan) to defend a young woman who is accused of murdering her husband. Strangely, Dan and Doug are hired by the father of the murder victim.

For the first two thirds of the book it’s just a good read traveling along at 55 miles per hour. I was thinking that this book is OK, but nothing special. Then, wham! The afterburners kick in and the story proceeds at warp speed. The twists and turns keep the reader off balance and you never quite know what to expect next. 

This is a page-turner and a mind-boggler. While I think some of the characters could have been better developed, the story is truly unique and fast-paced. There are few books that I would recommend unequivocally, but if you like murder mysteries, this is one I wholeheartedly recommend. You won’t be disappointed.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Dissent is the Highest Form of Patriotism. Not!

Dissent is the Highest Form of

Patriotism. Not!

We seem to live in a bumper sticker society. People don’t take time for serious reading anymore. If it doesn’t fit on a bumper sticker, it’s meaningless. At least that’s the impression I get from time to time. 

While some bumper stickers can be entertaining, others are incomprehensible, and others are just dumb, such as the one I saw recently. It read, "Dissent is the Highest Form of Patriotism." You hardly know where to start with such an inanity.

Let’s begin with the idea that "dissent" is patriotic. My fourth edition, American Heritage College Dictionary defines a "patriot" as, "One who loves, supports, and defends one’s country." It defines "patriotism" as, "Love of and devotion to one’s country." Those are pretty straightforward definitions and it would be more than a little contortional to fit "dissent" into a definition of being patriotic.

Dissent is dissent, it’s not patriotic. That doesn’t necessarily make it wrong, but it has absolutely nothing to do with patriotism. And, in fact, in some cases dissent is clearly unpatriotic if it involves burning the American flag or otherwise expressing your hatred for America.

As for the phrase, "highest form of patriotism," one hardly knows whether to laugh or cry. Higher than Nathan Hale giving his life for his country? Higher than the sacrifices of our founders? Higher than men (and women) who have died defending our country in battle? Higher than those who put their lives on the line each day to make it possible for others to dissent?

Give me a break. Dissent is dissent. Patriotism is patriotism, whether it’s that certain feeling you get when they play the national anthem, or when you visit American shrines like Valley Forge, or when an honor guard carries the American flag in a parade. Patriotism is about love, and dissent is about anger.

Thursday, November 1, 2007



The truth is that I had significant reservations when the decision was made to invade Iraq – both the first time and the second time. I was not convinced that it was possible for a democracy to exist in the Middle East. Yes, it’s true that Saddam’s Bathist regime was secular, but it was also a brutal dictatorship. And Saddam himself was an ego-maniacal ruler with delusions of grandeur. He and his sons were sadistic and deranged. Nevertheless, his violent dictatorship held the passions of the various brands of Islam in check. Was it really possible that a democracy, in any form, could exist in this blood soaked region?

Having those reservations, I must say that the current situation is very encouraging. There truly is a natural human desire for freedom and the visible evidence of this desire was the last election held in Iraq. Who among us would go to the polls if there was a not too unlikely chance that we would be shot or blown up? It’s great to espouse freedom and talk about the importance of voting, but Iraqis not only voted, they also turned out in record numbers. That human desire for freedom expressed itself when entire families risked injury and death to cast their vote. It was truly inspiring.

Yet the violence and bloodshed continued and each day our newspapers and major television networks led with the deaths of Iraqis and our American soldiers. In the halls of Congress folks like Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, et. al. trumpeted the failure of the war. Senator Reid even stated that "The War is lost."

Now Harry, Nancy, Ted and their friends are certainly entitled to express their points of view, although I must admit that it often seems as if they are cheering for the other side. When do attacks on our military become akin to yelling "fire" in a crowded theater?

In their position as leaders they relentlessly heralded the deaths of our troops, while yet asserting that they support the troops. OK, that may seem inconsistent to me, but I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.

But now there’s silence regarding the current situation in Iraq. Silence from The Washington Post, the LA Times, and the New York Times. Silence from CBS, NBC, CNN, and ABC. Silence from Time, Newsweek, and US News. Silence from Ted Kennedy, John Kerry, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, Jack Murtha, Hillary Clinton, Barak Obamma, et. al.

Why the silence?

They weren’t silent when General Petraeus testified before Congress. They weren’t silent when our troops were dying. They weren’t silent when the war was going badly. Why are those on the left so silent now?

You and I know the war is going better, much better. The surge (which they all opposed) is clearly working. So why is this dramatic change not touted in the big newspapers and on the national television networks and by political leaders on the left? Aren’t they pro-America first, and liberals second? Aren’t they intellectually honest?

Their silence is deafening. 

There is only one logical conclusion. They are silent because they are more interested in seizing political power, than they are in protecting and securing the safety of the United States of America. They would rather see America suffer defeat and see Iraq fall under the complete sway of the terrorists than to see our troops and the United States succeed.

They are silent because they are not intellectually honest. All they do is attack, attack, attack. Clearly their policy is rule or ruin.

Can there be any other conclusion?

To be sure, the war is not over. But shouldn’t we as Americans, regardless of our political stripe, hail and celebrate the success of our armed forces in the field of battle? Have we become so partisan and so corrupted that it’s all about power and politics and there’s no longer any room for love of country?

Shame! Shame!

In this case silence is not golden. It’s just dishonest and unpatriotic.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

It's not funny

It’s not funny

I have commented several times that I think we are becoming a nation of easily offended people. Everyone seems to be looking for a way to be offended. I believe I should be careful not to give offense and very slow to take offense. In fact, in Proverbs 19:20, we are commanded to avoid taking offense. And certainly we should do our best to put the best construction on everything. However, when it is obvious that offense is clearly intended, it’s understandable that offense is taken.

When it comes to bumper stickers that read, "So Many Rightwing Christians, So Few Lions," I just sigh and wonder how it is that those who claim to be so tolerant and denounce hatred are often the most intolerant of all. Such a bumper sticker (which was seen recently by my niece in Seattle) isn’t funny. It’s intended to be offensive. I’m not going to lose any sleep over it, but why is it always open season on Christians? Is it funny that men, women, and children were eaten alive by Lions? Are the folks who created this bumper sticker descendents of those who cheered when the Lions ate Christians alive in ancient Rome?

I am offended even more by those who desecrate an ancient Christian symbol, the fish. Some folks choose to put the outline of a fish on their car (I’m not one of them) as a witness that they are followers of the Christ. The fish symbol goes back to ancient times when Christians were openly persecuted and met in the catacombs for fellowship. In those days, many men, women, and children died horrible deaths because of their faith in Jesus.

That’s why the symbol of the fish is so special to Christians. They want to honor these brave men, women, and children who suffered so much because they were followers of the Way. Putting a fish symbol on their lapel or on their car is their way of honoring their Christian ancestors and quietly and un-offensively telling others that they believe in Jesus as their Savior.

Apparently putting this small outline of a fish on a car is just too much for a society that is in your face with pornography, vulgarity, and obscenity. Today it’s hard to go to the mall or walk down a city street without some lout using every foul word he (or she) knows. It doesn’t make any difference whatsoever if you are with your wife or with young children. Their uncouth rant goes on at full throat. And apparently no one is offended.

Yet, because some Christians seek to put the symbol of a fish on their car, others openly mock their religion by putting "Darwin" in the center of the fish. This desecration of an ancient Christian symbol offends me. I’m not saying that someone who believes in the theory of evolution can’t be a Christian, but clearly the intent is to mock and belittle Christian beliefs. 

Perhaps I’m overreacting. Perhaps the folks who have done this are not aware of the importance of this symbol to Christians. Let’s hope so. Or perhaps they should consider practicing what they preach – tolerance of others opinions, views, faith and practices. 

A free society continues to exist because you and I and the majority of others in our society practice self-restraint and exercise respect for others. When that majority no longer exists, our society breaks down and the power of government replaces our self restraint and self discipline. And when that happens our freedom vanishes.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Some Really Good News

Some Really Good News

I read some very good, very important news in The Washington Times of September 25, 2007. It is far, far more important than all the huffing and puffing and wringing of hands by politicians who say they seek energy independence, but then pass an energy bill that does nothing whatsoever to get us down that road. 

The big news is that nuclear energy is making a comeback. Quoting from the Times, "‘NRG Energy, Inc. will submit the first application for a new nuclear reactor in the US in nearly 30 years,’ the company’s chief executive said yesterday." Hooray!

But there’s more good news. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission went on to say that they expect a minimum of six more applications this year by the Constellation Energy Group, Inc., Duke Energy Corporation, and Dominion Resources, Inc., among others. I have been waiting for this development for years. I always thought it was inevitable.

Nuclear power is the safest, least expensive source of electrical power in the world and it is completely nonpolluting. Moreover, the US has abundant uranium resources. That means we don’t need to go to Saudi Arabia for our needs.

Our nuclear power plants have always been safe. The nonscientific types always wave their arms and point to the Three Mile Island problem. But in fact, no one died at Three Mile Island and no one was hurt. American corporations, together with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, have always put safety first. If our safeguards had been in place at Chernobyl, even that melt down would not have caused the devastation it did.

As the Wall Street Journal pointed out several years back, much of the problem with nuclear energy was caused by the companies themselves who insisted on designing every power plant from the ground up. In other words, a power company could not go to Westinghouse and buy a nuclear power plant like they would buy a gas turbine. Each one was unique and thus the price of construction and the time for approval by the NRC was incredibly long. It would be like you and I having a car designed from scratch each time we bought a car. Instead of costing $30,000 it would cost $300,000.

It appears the nuclear power industry has learned that lesson and will be building nuclear power plants to replace the polluting fossil fuel plants across our nation. This is a huge step toward energy independence, less pollution, sufficient electrical supply (instead of rationing), and controlling the cost of electricity.

Again, I say hooray for the engineers and business leaders who once again are providing a practical and realistic solution to our energy needs. Now, if we can only beat the kooky politicians off with a stick.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Big Salaries

Big Salaries

From time to time you and I hear lots of complaining in the news media about the excessive compensation paid to presidents and officers of major corporations, especially publicly held corporations. I always chuckle when I hear such complaints, especially because the media never remarks negatively about the excessive compensation of professional athletes, or of Hollywood stars, or of Rock stars.

There are plenty of things to criticize the management of large public corporations for, such as manipulating the stock value to the benefit of management instead of the stockholders. But, as a stockholder I don’t object to huge pay for a corporate leader that performs. If he does a wonderful job providing better services or products and the stock soars, why should I complain about his compensation? Furthermore, what business is it of non stockholders? A stockholder has options. He can get rid of the stock if he thinks the compensation being paid to the president of the corporation is excessive. No one is holding a gun to his head. He can attend the stockholders’ annual meeting and raise a rumpus about compensation if he is concerned.

Complaining about big salaries is just the politics of envy. It’s not right. It’s not healthy. In fact, the Bible calls envy a sin. If we can cheer on baseball players that make more than $10 million a year, then let’s also cheer those high paid business executives that year in and year out, run companies that give their investors a healthy return on their investment. It’s fun to see your favorite star hit a home run, but it’s even better to see a business star make your stock value rise.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

A Free Market Economy

A Free Market Economy

The free market is wonderful. It gives us options and those options are called freedom. We don’t have to buy from a company we don’t like. We have choices and those choices are called freedom. Beware of the politician that wants to "help" by giving the government more control over the products and services we need. Government doesn’t create anything, it can only regulate and create scarcity. Government always limits choices. Government can create equality, but that equality is guaranteed to provide products and services that are inferior.

Only government creates monopolies. AT&T had a monopoly on long distance telephone services until MCI broke their monopoly by going to court. Professional sports teams pay players millions and millions of dollars per year. Why? Because local governments subsidize these sports and because the US Government gives these sports monopolies. Every attempt to set up a monopoly by a big corporation always turns to ashes in the end because of the freedom the marketplace gives to other individuals to create a better product or service.

Politicians love government regulations and control. They love the monopolies they set up which give them more power. A politician’s overriding goal is getting re-elected and gaining more power over our lives. The more people that are obligated to government for their livelihood, their retirement or for their health care, the more votes politicians can control.

The Founders of our nation feared such politicians. Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry spoke forcefully on the danger of a powerful centralized government. They understood that politicians would be tempted to use the power of taxation and government regulation to perpetuate themselves in power.

We are enjoying wonderful prosperity in a thriving, powerful economy. Our standard of living is the envy of the world. If you doubt it, go to the US Border with Mexico and watch which direction people are crossing the border. The Berlin Wall was built to keep people in who wanted to flee to freedom. We don’t have that problem because people want to come here to enjoy our freedom.

The free market isn’t perfect, but it is far, far better than any other attempt at generating universal prosperity. It is, in fact, the lynch pin, of all our freedoms. Without economic freedom, all the other freedom we enjoy will quickly diminish.

Jimmy Carter’s Legacy

Jimmy Carter’s Legacy

Lest we forget, it was Jimmy Carter who is primarily responsible for the mess we currently face in the Middle East. Sure, lots of other folks have contributed to the problems we face, but Jimmy Carter certainly got the ball rolling when he intentionally destabilized Iran and undercut the Shah. The cause of Carter’s crusade was ostensibly human rights. He made the Shah a target because of his poor human rights record in Iran. Jimmy Carter made it publicly clear that he opposed the continued rule of the Shah (or his successor) and did everything possible to undercut his continued rule. Mr. Carter’s success in this endeavor gave the world the Ayatollah Komeni.

The fact is the Shah of Iran was the lynchpin of United States influence in the Middle East. He was a strong ally, and because we supplied Iran with the latest in weaponry, other nations in the vicinity of Iran kept their anti-Israel and anti-US intentions under control. Moreover, while Iran was not democratic under the Shah, it was the most modern country in the Middle East, outside of Israel. 

Our approach to the Middle East prior to Jimmy Carter was not pie in the sky. We didn’t talk about democratizing the Middle East. Does anyone really think that’s possible? Rather, our approach was pragmatic—we supported the Shah because it kept the lid on the Middle East cauldron and during the Cold War it successfully countered the attempts of the USSR to bring the Middle East fully into their orbit. It wasn’t a perfect solution, but it was a practical one that worked. The Shah wasn’t perfect, but compared to the lunatics in Iran and other parts of the Middle East today, he was a saint.

When we kicked the legs out from under that table, we destabilized the entire Middle East. The result is the mess we face there today.

By the way, Jimmy Carter did the exact same thing in Nicaragua. When he kicked out Omar Trujillo, he exchanged a strongly pro-US tin horn dictator for the Ortega brothers, much more dangerous and with a much more repressive, soviet style régime. Once again, he destabilized an entire region of the world because he was either too naïve or ill informed to understand the consequences of his actions.

Now Carter praises Caesar Chavez, a Fidel Castro wannabe. Chavez, the communist despot in Venezuela who has seized control of the news media, demolished the country’s economy and killed off his enemies, seems to be some sort of hero to former President Carter.

I won’t even get into his foolish visit to North Korea and his praise of
Kim Jong Il (who truly is ill). One only wonders what Mr. Carter would be saying of Joseph Stalin or Adolph Hitler if they were still alive today.

For his ill advised words and actions in the Middle East, in Latin America and around the globe, Jimmy Carter deserves a dunce cap, not a Nobel Prize.

Friday, September 21, 2007

The Jim Webb Comedy Hour

           The Jim Webb Comedy Hour

Jim Webb was elected to the US Senate in 2006. Virginians decided they would elect this fellow over the incumbent, George Allen. While I contributed to and voted for George Allen, I must say that Jim Webb is much more entertaining than George Allen. I have never met the man, but his actions and statements put an instant smile on my face.

I don’t like putting labels on people. It’s usually an excuse for being unwilling to debate someone on the issues. It’s a nasty habit, but one that is very common to the political classes.

So let me make it clear, I’m not saying that Jim Webb is a left wing nut. I’m not saying that he’s a right wing nut. He’s just a plain old, garden variety nut. We all have friends, neighbors, relatives or acquaintances like Senator Webb. You know what I mean, that odd uncle or aunt who says and does things that are a little strange. It’s fun to have them around once in a while for entertainment purposes, and we’re going to have Jim Webb around for nearly six more years.

Jim Webb hasn’t been in office a year, and already he’s been entertaining. First, there was the formal reception at the White House shortly after his election at which he made a point of refusing to shake hands with the Commander in Chief. The President ignored the affront and inquired after Jim Webb’s son (who was then serving in Iraq). Jim Webb’s response was, "It’s none of your business." Some people would say Jim Webb has no class, and perhaps that’s true, but I think he was just being Jim Webb. He exhibits erratic behavior.

After all, this is the same Jim Webb who resigned in a huff as Secretary of the Navy. The same Jim Webb who gave his aide a bag to bring to his office that contained a big handgun and several additional clips of ammo (He was expecting what, a small war?). When his aide was detained by security, Webb complained that he had received death threats. Maybe. But perhaps he just wished he was important enough to have received death threats.

He has jumped from party to party like one of those famous jumping frogs of Calaveras County. He started out as a Democrat, supported Ronald Reagan, opposed Ollie North, endorsed George Allen for US Senate in 2000, blasted Bill Clinton, and then rejoined Clinton’s party to run for US Senate. As I said, Jim Webb is entertaining.

When it was pointed out that Jim Webb had some pretty blatant pornographic passages in his novels, he responded gravely, "I am a serious writer." That made me laugh. I’m not challenging the fact that Webb has writing talent, but serious writing his books are not. At best they are entertaining novels, at worst they are a seamy look at the underbelly of Vietnam.

But Jim Webb’s response is classic Jim Webb. I understand that Senator Webb has quite a high opinion of himself. Of course, all Senators and Congressmen have huge egos. It seems to go with the territory, but most of them know who they really are. Jim Webb apparently has no clue. He’s what Forbes magazine might describe as an "overreacher." But lightning struck Jim Webb. In 2006, the Democrats wanted any candidate that would give them one more vote in the US Senate. So Democrats were even willing to nominate Ronald Reagan’s former Secretary of the Navy if it would give them control of the US Senate. Their gambit paid off, but Jim Webb may turn out to be more than the Democrats bargained for. They have already found out that Webb is not some thoughtful maverick, he’s just a loose cannon that rolls all over the deck.

There is a positive note. Jim Webb provides great material for Jay Leno. With his red face and off the wall antics he reminds me of the comic strip character Popeye, huffing and puffing around. Maybe Ollie North hit him too hard in the head when they were boxing at the Naval Academy. Whatever the reason, I promise you that the Jim Webb comedy hour has just begun. It should be fun. Stay tuned…

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

A Good Read

A Good Read

I read lots of non-fiction books, but there’s almost nothing I find more enjoyable than picking up a good novel. I’m always looking for good writers, but the good ones like David Baldachi, Joel Rosenberg, and Tom Clancy seem to be few and far between. Recently, however, I came across a writer who has been around for quite a while, but I just never knew about him before. 

Vince Flynn writes books that are good reads. In the last month I have read two of them, Memorial Day and Consent to Kill. These books are built around a character by the name of Mitch Rapp. Rapp is a former US Olympian whose girlfriend was killed in the Lockerbie bombing. He is subsequently recruited by the CIA to lead the clandestine fight against the terrorists. Mitch Rapp is a lot like Jack Bauer from the hit series 24. He doesn’t let legal technicalities get in his way of stopping the bad guys. 

Flynn doesn’t write politically correct novels, so don’t wait for the movie because Hollywood would never agree to create a movie which is based on the realism that the terrorists are male Islamic Fascists from the Middle East. Most of Flynn’s books are available in paperback, so you don’t need to take out a loan to buy a copy.

I’ve already purchased two more Flynn paperbacks – Executive Power and Separation of Power – and look forward to several pleasurable hours of reading. I should warn you that if you don’t like the violence of Jack Bauer’s 24, you won’t like the violence of Mitch Rapp. But if you like a good read about fighting terrorism that is unabashedly patriotic, I think you will like Vince Flynn and his character, Mitch Rapp.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Gasoline Taxes and Bridge Collapses

  Gasoline Taxes and Bridge Collapses

What a tragedy it was when the I-35 Bridge over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis collapsed. Imagine the sheer terror experienced by the motorists as the bridge they were driving on began to collapse into the Mississippi River. In the 1800’s, bridge collapses were not unusual. In fact, one year, shortly before construction on the Brooklyn Bridge was approved by President Ulysses Grant in 1869, 40 bridges collapsed. The reoccurring problem was design flaws. Engineers simply did not have the design knowledge or the materials available to ensure that bridges would withstand the weight of the trains and carriages they carried. But this is more than 100 years later and bridges are not supposed to collapse. We have the technology and the construction materials they didn’t have in 1800’s. The investigation results are not in, but I would venture a guess that it wasn’t a design failure which caused the Minneapolis bridge to collapse, as was the case with the bridges built in the 1800’s. Quite likely, the cause of the collapse was a maintenance issue.

I can’t help but wonder if the collapse of this bridge and the loss of so many lives is not the direct result of what has happened to the use of gasoline tax dollars (both state and federal) over the past 30 years. 

I don’t particularly care for taxes, but I always thought that gasoline taxes at both the state and federal level came as close as possible to being the ideal tax. When they were originally instituted many, many years ago, the law stipulated that every dollar collected be spent exclusively on highways – maintenance and construction. It was a great concept, the people who paid gasoline taxes, who drove on the highways and roads, paid for highway maintenance and construction. It was perhaps the fairest tax ever instituted in the United States. This was the policy followed by both states and the federal government regarding the expenditure of gasoline taxes.

But, you see, you and I view taxes in a very different way than politicians. Beyond certain essentials, politicians view tax dollars as a means of getting re-elected. The French historian, Alexis De Tocqueville, who traveled the United States in 1831, observed that when American politicians realized they could perpetuate themselves in power by taxing, spending and electing, our democracy would be dead. Well, our democracy is not dead, but when professional politicians, who now populate both political parties, see the primary purpose of tax revenues as a means of getting themselves re-elected, it damages all of us. The collapse of the bridge in Minnesota is a sad example.

The politicians cheered loudly when they finally broke the highway trust fund in Congress. Actual cheering occurred because they had opened the door to spending more money for pork barrel projects and mass transportation that would generate votes in their home districts. They ignored common sense and the remarkable fairness of a system that used highway taxes exclusively to build and maintain highways. Shortly thereafter most states followed suit and cannibalized gasoline tax revenues for their general treasury.

Today, gasoline taxes, both state and federal, are spent entirely at the whim of the politicians. Instead of devoting all gasoline tax dollars to roads and bridges, they are spent on all sorts of silly things to cover shortfalls in tax revenue caused by irresponsible spending at the state and national level.

New highway construction could eliminate much of our stop and go traffic and simultaneously clean literal tons of pollution from our skies. Better bridge and tunnel maintenance could eliminate bridge collapses and tunnel problems such as those that occurred with the big dig. In short, spending gasoline tax dollars exclusively on highway construction and maintenance would help us breathe cleaner air and drive over safer bridges.

But I’m afraid we will never be able to put that genie back in the bottle. It’s a shame because congestion has never been worse, there is too much pollution, and the safety of our bridges, highways, and tunnels has never been in greater doubt. Much can be said about politicians, Republican and Democrat, but they will never be accused of having too much common sense.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


In my recent blog titled "The Rules Have Changed," I erroneously stated that the majority of the black vote went to Presidential Republican candidates from the time of Abraham Lincoln until the time of Dwight Eisenhower. That statement was incorrect. I sent an e-mail to the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library in Abilene, Kansas ( after someone questioned that statistic. I received a nice response from Herb Pankratz, who serves as Archivist of the Eisenhower Library, in which he states that "21% of black voters supported Dwight Eisenhower in 1952 and approximately 42% voted for him in 1956." I appreciate Mr. Prankratz’s response.

While I was incorrect in regard to my statement that the majority of black votes went to Dwight Eisenhower, the premise of my article is still true. The black vote did, in fact, go to the GOP from 1860 until 1928 (68 years). Admittedly, the black vote in the 1800’s was of limited in impact. Apparently it was not until Franklin D. Roosevelt put together his coalition in 1932 that the Democrats captured the black vote. However their hold on that vote, in light of Eisenhower’s 42% share in 1956, was tenuous until the Goldwater candidacy in 1964.

While it was Dwight Eisenhower who signed into law the landmark 1957 Civil Rights Act, African Americans have not trusted the GOP since their "Southern Strategy" was put in place, and understandably so. But the 1960’s were a long, long time ago and it is, as I said in my blog, time for a second look. 

For example, in the area of education, conservatives have taken the lead in getting voucher programs in place. Vouchers provide a real and proven solution to the problem of bad schools in the poor areas of our cities. In Wisconsin, conservatives teamed up with Polly Williams, an African American state legislator, in a successful effort to pass school vouchers. This school voucher program has become a model program for schools located in economically depressed areas. 

In fact, St. Marcus School, located in central Milwaukee (, is a shining example of what can be accomplished thanks to vouchers. It was visited by former District of Columbia Mayor, Anthony Williams, and served as reinforcement for his support of a voucher program for DC.

Conservatives and black Americans have found common ground in many other areas including the establishment of Enterprise Zones, cross-cultural alliances with suburban churches, and many other unheralded efforts by conservatives who give their time and money to improving conditions and creating opportunities in some of America’s most difficult and challenging areas.

Yes, African Americans are understandably distrustful of conservative Republicans, but the past is not the present. It is indeed time for a second look at candidates running for public office, regardless of their party label. It’s time to assess whether a candidate simply wants votes, or has real plans to solve problems. The black American community needs more than just expressions of "I feel your pain," it needs new and unique approaches that address the very real issues they face on a day-to-day basis. It’s not about racism, it’s about opportunity.

Friday, September 7, 2007

An Odd Definition of Compassion

An Odd Definition of Compassion

There’s something that has stuck in my craw for a number of years – the odd definitions of compassion and generosity that seems to exist in modern society. It has to do primarily with our politicians. It’s generally understood that if a politician votes to give money to someone in need, that’s compassion. To my thinking, that’s an extremely odd definition of compassion. Now, if that same politician reached down in his own pocket and gave his own money to someone in need, that would indeed be genuine compassion. He would be a truly generous person.

But simply voting to take someone else’s money and give it to an individual in need is not compassion, at least not by my understanding. Compassion is giving your own money to help someone else.

Using the power of government to help someone else may be a necessary thing, but it has absolutely nothing to do with compassion. It’s like the story of a citizen and a politician walking down the street. They come upon a street person who asks for help. The citizen reaches down in his pocket and gives $20 to the person and tells him that if he’ll stop by his office to work he’ll pay him $10 per hour. The politician is impressed by the generosity of the citizen, so when they come across another street person he walks over and gives him directions to the welfare office, then takes $20 from the citizen (holds out $5 for administrative costs) and gives the balance to the street person.

Voting to give other people’s money to folks in need may make a politician feel good and he may think he is compassionate when he does so, but this is not compassion. Being generous with someone else’s money is easy to do, but in most cases it’s just self-serving. The politician’s goal is often just to make that person feel indebted to him, and helping him is incidental to the situation. 
In fact, government aid to the poor is usually a disconnect. What is disconnected is the love that motivates an individual to help another person. For most politicians, giving other people’s money to the poor is just another way of buying votes. And truthfully, most politicians don’t care a whit if the money really gets to the person in need. They just want it on the record that they are "compassionate" and want to be sure that the person helped is committed to vote for them.

If this seems cynical, just ask your politician how much of their salary they donated to charity last year. You’ll be shocked to learn that politicians of all stripes, conservative, liberal, Republican and Democrat give very, very little of their own money to charity. It’s hard to find out what the numbers are, but when the sums are disclosed it’s almost always less than 2% of what they earn!

In contrast, the hard-hearted businessman (as portrayed by Hollywood) is often among the most generous and compassionate in our society. I work with many fine folks in the business community who give much more than 15% of their income and profits to charity each year. On top of that, they volunteer their time to serve others in need. Without any fanfare or credit, tens of thousands of small business leaders help less blessed members of our society by donating their time and dollars.

For you "compassionate" politicians who portray yourself as "compassionate" because you give away other people’s money, you deserve nothing but the Bronx cheer. But for you truly compassionate businessmen and businesswomen as well as all Americans who dig down deep to help make this a better country in which to live, you deserve a round of applause.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Start Your Day Out Right!

Start Your Day Out Right!
Wouldn’t it be great to start out each day on a positive note? I do something that charges me up more than a tall glass of orange juice or a great cup of coffee and it works every time. After I sign in on my computer, I take just 20 to 30 seconds to read my Grace Moments™ e-mail from Mark Jeske. It gives me just the right perspective that I need to appreciate all the blessings I have, even when things are not going my way.

I challenge you to give it a five day trial. Start today by clicking on You’ll get a great, upbeat message about God’s love that takes only 20 seconds to read, and will get your day off on the right note.

If, after five days, you’re hooked (like I am), just go to to sign up for your daily Grace Moments™ e-mail. I look forward to mine each morning. You will too.

Friday, August 24, 2007

How About an Honest Scientific Debate on Global Warming?

How About an Honest Scientific

Debate on Global Warming?

Frankly, I don’t know what to think. I see articles by journalists saying that Global Warming is a fact and articles by other journalists saying that Global Warming doesn’t exist. I see politicians like Al Gore predicting catastrophe in the immediate future if we don’t act on Global Warming, and I see other politicians saying that Global Warming, if it exists, is no threat. I really don’t know who to believe.

What I’d really like to see is all the journalists and politicians sit down and shut up, and instead have a real debate with legitimate scientists on this issue. The fact is that thousands of talented and credentialed scientists think Global Warming is baloney, while thousands of other equally credentialed scientists think Global Warming is a real threat. Where does the truth lie? 

In fact, the debate shouldn’t stop with Global Warming. Some scientists believe that Global Warming exists, but it is simply part of a historic pattern of warming and cooling. And speaking of cooling, some reputable scientists, including one in Toronto, Canada, recently stated that scientific tests indicate that the earth is cooling, rather than warming!
No wonder the average guy like me is confused about Global Warming. We don’t need shouting matches on CNN or FOX. We don’t need propaganda pieces by Time and Newsweek, we need an honest debate where both sides are fully aired.

Unfortunately, too many real scientists now have a vested interest in proclaiming the legitimacy of Global Warming because their livelihood depends on it. Any scientist who is making his living investigating Global Warming, pro or con, should be disqualified from participating in this debate. We need honest, fair-minded individuals with experience and credentials who will provide an objective look at this very public issue.

So please. Stop the shouting. Stop the propaganda in the schools. Take a deep breath, step back and examine Global Warming from a scientific basis. Does a close examination by the scientific method definitively prove it is true, false, or rather, someplace in between? 

I may be in direct mail, but I have a degree in engineering. I’d like to see some real facts and figures and proof that Global Warming exists. If it stands up to close investigation using the Scientific Method, then let’s talk rationally about what can be done, if anything, to help ameliorate the potential damage it might do. If Global Warming is the problem, as we have been told it is, then we need to hear from real scientists and engineers, not ideologues, politicians, journalists or other know-nothings. If it’s a hoax, then it deserves to be exposed, and those who have been promoting it should suffer the consequences.

Lasting Happiness

Lasting Happiness

My pastor likes to point out that when someone says they are blessed, they are really saying that they are being made happy. Indeed, my Fourth Edition American Heritage Dictionary says that being blessed means to have "happiness, pleasure, or contentment."

So, my question to you is, are you happy? Or perhaps, what brings you happiness? Is it winning that softball game? Or having your team win the Super Bowl? Or climbing to the top of the mountain? Or going to a movie on Friday night? What is it that gives you pleasure and makes you happy?

When I was a kid of 10, I loved to go to the amusement park. It was great fun. What did you love to do when you were young? Go on a vacation? Go to camp? Today, I suppose young people want the latest electronic device – an XBox ™ or an iPod™ which they are sure will make them happy.
Big kids want a hunk for a husband or a beauty for a wife. They want a house and a nice car. They want a Plasma TV and a good job.

Those are understandable objectives. God has blessed us (made us happy) by making it possible for us to get stuff that makes us happy—at least temporarily. But the car wears out, the house needs repairs, and even the best TV will eventually have to be replaced.

Wanting stuff, wanting your team to win, and wanting to attend concerts are nice things to do, providing you keep them in perspective. But when you and I get to the place where we think we must have stuff in order to be happy, we’ve been sucked in.

When I was in the Army, I was stationed at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. We were always up early and often out in the desert for a test. It was amazing. You could see the most incredible, shimmering mountains and lakes. But the mountains and lakes were only mirages. 

Looking for lasting happiness by getting stuff is the Devil’s illusion. I know folks who think: If I can only get that job, I’ll be happy. If I can only get that raise, I’ll be happy. If I can only have that woman, I’ll be happy. If I only had his bank account, I’d be happy. If I had a million dollars, I’d be happy. If I could be famous, I’d be happy. If I just had power, I’d be happy.

When you think you have to have something to be happy, or worse, when you think you need what someone else has to be happy, you have gone from enjoying God’s blessings, to coveting what others have. 

Yes, there are countless books on how to win the right girl, and how to make a million dollars, and how to get ahead, but if you become obsessed with such goals, I’m afraid you’re not going to find contentment and happiness, just disappointment.

If you think the rich and famous are so happy, then the next time you go through the check out line at the grocery store, just take a glance at the headlines in the celebrity magazines. Do you see any happy people there?

So how do you obtain lasting happiness? Real, lasting happiness comes from knowing that God loves you. Knowing He loves you so much that He sent His only Son, Jesus, to rescue us from our imperfections (sins), is a love so great it’s almost impossible to comprehend. Living in God’s love we can have real joy and happiness in our lives, even when things are going wrong. We can overcome life’s hurdles and problems, knowing that He cares for us as no one else can. People, stuff, and events will disappoint us, but God will never disappoint us.

It’s hard for me to remember who won the Super Bowl last year and I haven’t a clue as to who won it the last five years. The happiness that comes from stuff is soon forgotten, but the happiness that comes from knowing God loves me, never goes away. And, knowing that in spite of all my faults and weaknesses, I will, through His grace, spend eternity in happiness with God, is the greatest happiness of all. 

I wish you this never-ending happiness, too.

The Stones Cry Out!

The Stones Cry Out!

I just finished reading a great little novel called “The Stones Cry Out,” and I recommend it to you.  It’s a murder mystery written in the first person by Sibella Giorello.  Mrs. Giorello currently lives in the Seattle area and this is her first novel, although she was a feature writer for The Richmond News Leader for ten years.  In fact, she was nominated twice for a Pulitzer Prize, so she’s no amateur.

        The setting for the book is Richmond, Virginia, and it’s clear that Mrs. Giorello is very familiar not only with the physical layout of the city and its history, but also with the folks who live there.  Her intimate knowledge of Richmond gives a very real feel to the book which kept me turning the pages.

        The story revolves around a young FBI agent, Raleigh Harmon, who is given the task of investigating the deaths of a police officer and a black man who plummet to their deaths from the top of an empty building.  There are a number of interesting and believable twists and turns that keep you wondering where the story is going next.

         It’s a good, quick, entertaining read.  If you like murder mysteries, I think you’ll like “The Stones Cry Out.”