Thursday, November 01, 2007

Fed up with the Fed
The Federal Reserve May Be Hurting Us More Than They Think

Yesterday--Halloween--the Federal Reserve Board of Governors decided to lower the prime rate by an additional 1/4 point--bringing the total reductions to 3/4 point in merely six weeks time. This is a pretty dramatic and scary action in the realms of monetary management. Similar reductions have occurred in the Fed Discount Rate and the Fed governors have also seen fit to pump literally hundreds of billions of dollars into the money supply over the last few months. All the while, bankers, hedge fund managers, and traders clamor for more.

All of this gives Huckleberry some pause... and a little additional clarity is, I believe, in order (see previous post).

The Fed is not being encouraged to lower interest rates because they are too high. Rather, rates are being lowered because the spread between the cost of funds paid by financial institutions and the interest rates that they are charging their customers is too small.

This applies to Subprime Mortgages, Credit Cards, and all riskier loans. The subprime mess--arguably at the root of all this consternation--has been caused by banks, brokers, and hedge funds not charging enough to cover the amount of risk already incumbent upon the borrowers that they have courted--proving once again that denial of risk does not mitigate it. Since (in most cases) contracts prevent the unilateral and/or unscheduled raising of interest rates, the only way the Fed can bail out these select financial institutions and companies is by lowering the cost of funds to provide some room for them to absorb the losses that should have reasonably been expected in the first place. The Fed is the only available source for this bailout because those loans--once touted as the belle of the ball--now have their blemishes on full display and the private equity markets no longer think that they are very pretty at all. Again, this should have been fully expected with a little math and due diligence evidently missing from their efforts to date.

Credit cards are in the same boat, but are even riskier. As the economy worsens/slows credit cards are usually the first to feel the default pinch. Prime credit cards are likely to remain in the same interest rate range and the lower credit (riskier) credit cards are likely to push up a bit to protect the banks from losses (the only thing worse than less profit at a bank are more losses).

But Won't My Payments Go Down Now That Rates Are Lower?
Not likely. This current round of rate cuts is designed to protect financial institutions--not consumers--and therefore consumers should not anticipate interest rate relief will be felt in their monthly loan payments. In fact, consumers will likely suffer higher costs overall as the dollar concurrently weakens and inflation bares its teeth. Statistically the argument can be made that mortgage and credit card payments were not high enough to cover the inherent risks. The current reductions show every indication (to this author) of being earmarked to stem the flow of blood on Wall Street.

This little insidious protection racket shifts the costs back onto the consumer-at-large in the form of lost buying power (inflation) and economic turmoil. The prevailing thought seems to be that it is better to squeeze a few drops of blood from each of us rather than take the heads (and robust profits) from the subset of us who wear pin-striped three-piece suits. The Fed obviously believes that they are choosing the lesser of two evils. I think that they are incorrect and that a greater evil is being done on many fronts.

Certainly more to come....

Be well,
Huckleberry

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Philosopoem

“Some find life and its marks to be feared
But the more life rimed upon the beard
The better the prose rhymed upon the tongue
Shaming the poet, once foolish and young.”


"For who can say they, be loose their mortal coil
And think that their flesh, will be saved from the soil?
Be you scoundrel or fool, prince or a poet
You walk over the bones of your past, 'ere you know it."

Be well,
Huckleberry

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

A Word from Huck – Syncretism

Syncretism, through strict definition, does not necessarily imply a negative. However, the root of the meaning we derive from the word is unquestionably negative. In a nut-shell, a syncretism is an effort to reconcile, merge, or balance disparate thoughts, philosophies, opinions, beliefs, and/or actions. Thus, the concept takes on significant gravity in philosophical, theological, and socio-political discourse.

In psychological terms, one might define Syncretism as “cognitive dissonance.” Rather, how one’s actions or thoughts are not in alignment with one’s beliefs, principles, or professions.

The term has often been used when describing various unifications of formerly conflicting factions or warring clans; however, I am not fond of this usage since a political or otherwise expedient negotiation of peace to fight a common foe or accomplish a common objective misses the point--in my opinion.

Bringing this nearly forgotten word quickly into modern times, we might suppose the following examples:

  • One who believes that it is definitely wrong to steal; but that taking office supplies home for personal use is not really stealing.
  • One who might vociferously profess that individual freedom is a higher calling; but may then actively support Socialization and the regulation of certain property rights.
  • Another who might profess that telling lies and cheating are reprehensible; but fudging deductions on your tax return is acceptable.
  • Consider the person who might believe that the death penalty for particularly heinous crimes is cruel and unusual punishment because human life is sacred; yet, actively supports abortion rights.
  • And lest the reader think that I gore my neighbor’s oxen with an uneven hand—Let us also consider the faithful who cherish the freedom of religion guaranteed by our American Constitution; yet want only one theological position be taught in public schools. Hmmmmm….
All of these are examples of individuals or groups acting in some way syncretisticly to justify their disparate wants and thoughts—one is in conflict with the other. This is not to say that they need be so. In each case a legitimate argument might be made to unify the concepts on sound grounds. But I am relatively sure that this hard work of cognition has not yet been completed. Thus the syncretism persists.

There is much to consider in this....

[New Text Added October 11, 2007]

I am struck by the notion that much of our personal and societal anxiety is rooted in our in ability to reconcile our syncretisms.

  • Marriages dissolve when love is tainted with by selfishness, narcissism, and solipsism.
  • Obvious self-interest is trumped by rebellion.
  • Future is disregarded at the alter of Now. One could argue that even the most preciousness of this Moment is forgotten by the sense of something even more immediately in mind and in another place.

As we are pulled and cajoled by other place, self, and now we end up floating in waters more uneven than mere relative-ness and subjectivity. That let's us off far too easy. Instead we drift through a life without firmament at all. Denying that laws and principles exist lest they be at any time or place inconvenient in the "then."

Blessed is the one who speaks, acts, and lives at one with himself and with God.

And still there is much more to consider in this....

Be well,
Huckleberry

Monday, October 08, 2007

Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Magic’ is a Trick of Craven Public Relations

I get it. My regular readers may note that—in addition to my contributions to this blog and other writings—I am a musician. No one tells me what to write, say, or sing. And the songs I write articulate my philosophies and beliefs. Sometimes people disagree with those philosophies and beliefs. Fair enough.

Bruce Springsteen has come out with a new album. He spent much of the last few years campaigning for Democrat candidates and at the behest of MoveOn.org (the left-iest of the leftist left). So far so good.

His new album professes his anti-war sentiment. Well, that’s not really fair. I know of no one who is “pro-war,” per se. But it is pretty clear that Bruce does not think that we should be in this war…or the one just before this one…or the one before that, come to think of it. Anyway—Bruce wants us out of Iraq. Again, we can agree and/or disagree—no problem. His art, his message.

It is one thing for the expression or performance of art to inspire outrage, discussion, or thought; and it is quite another to beat the drum of controversy first, in a craven attempt to generate sales. This is especially true when you are using our national divisions and the blood of soldiers to do so.

The new Springsteen album, titled “Magic” and released last week, has been getting a lot of press. Some of that press has been complimentary of the music itself, but most has been “controversy spin.” The Guardian’s recent article “Springsteen ready for criticism over ‘Magic’ words” is one such example. Note that there is, at this point, no criticism—but darn it, as the article title suggests, Bruce is ready for it. And the article takes a swipe at talk radio as well, quoting Joe Levy of Rolling Stone, ”Springsteen will likely be grist for the mill among conservative radio and talk show hosts who will likely rail against the record and its message.” “Likely,” eh? One cannot help but detect a bit of hope in Mr. Levy’s comments and Bruce’s “readiness” that a few talk show hosts and other folks will actually talk about the album.


All of this seemingly coordinated messaging smacks of a focused PR effort to not only “get in front” of the issue, but to literally drive the message and generate the hype. Real controversies generate themselves without artificial prodding. True art inspires its own discussions. Good music sells in spite of controversy, not because of it.

Remember—no one has yet criticized Bruce Springsteen or his message that I am aware of. And if there is any criticism, those authors have a right to their say as well. Freedom works. PR and advertising people do their job, and band’s and record companies sell music for profit.

Some record labels use Night-club frolics, love affairs, faux grudges, and rehab clinics to gin-up the publicity that their stars need when albums are released. We all cringe at such ploys and shrug our shoulders in dejected acceptance that this comes with the territory. The Springsteen team appears to be using their political media connections to do so. Hey—freedom of speech, I really get that, too. But as the fans are cheering “The Boss” and holding up signs at concerts saying things like “No Blood for Oil” they would do well to remember that this is a “profit” deal. Each attendee will have paid upwards of $79.00 per seat for the concert tickets, the album sells for $9.97 at Amazon.com, and you can download individual tracks off the album for $.99 each from Itunes.

Today’s Springsteen fans may not like the reasoning or execution of the Iraq conflict, but they must find a way to philosophically justify squeezing a few drops of that precious blood into a seemingly contrived controversy that revitalizes a music career and generates literally hundreds of million of dollars in revenue for…um…let’s just call them ”Big Music.”

I want all musicians to get paid for their performances and their product. I do not begrudge them that. And it is certainly not necessary that they agree with me on any counts at all. If any individual or group should attempt to silence a musician, I stand at the ready to defend them. But it is this writer’s (and musician’s) opinion that the intentional conjuring of pseudo-controversy on an issue that indeed is tinted by the blood of soldiers and patriots crosses a line. The Springsteen publicity machine should not be silenced, but perhaps they should be a bit ashamed.

Be well,
Huckleberry

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Thank You Hillary Clinton—Thank You for Proposing Universal Health Care

I could not be more grateful. Just when I thought that Hillary Clinton was going to be tough to beat on the campaign trail due to a divided and mildly disillusioned Conservative/Republican alliance, she has handed the Republican base a rallying point worthy of unification.

I was under the impression that Hillary was going to “run-to-the-right” in order to side-step her well earned Liberal and power-hungry reputation. The signs were all there. She had moderated her criticisms of certain Republican issues and had adopted a position on the Iraq conflict that—although certainly not supportive—was at least to the right of the kook-fringe Democrat surrender-monkeys of the Murtha-Kucinich ilk. That combined with her obvious fund-raising advantages (billionaire supporters), sleazy-yet-charismatic husband, and a moribund set of opposition candidates gave Hillary, in my opinion, a tough campaign one-two-punch. How do you screw that up?

Evidently you can screw it up by intentionally revisiting your greatest political defeat and dragging the rotting corpse of your rebuffed Socialist agenda back into the media spotlight before you get elected.

We Conservatives and Republicans may not like Rudy Giuliani’s family problems and certain policies, we may be angry at John McCain’s Illegal Immigration fiascos, some of the fringe among us may not trust Mitt Romney’s Mormonism, and Fred Thompson may be too new to rate; but I guarantee you that any one of them is worth voting for if the Democrat candidate is all a-titter about the possibility of Socializing 1/7 of our national economy in the form of Socialized medicine. I also think that there are millions of squishy middle-of-the-road-types who will get a bit concerned if there is a possibility that Hillary or her minions will have the power to determine who receives Viagra or how long they should wait to see a doctor if they are experiencing chest pains.

Some of the lefties themselves might start to feel squeamish once the Republican National Committee puts Hillary’s quotes on national television. Are you a small business worried about the potential health care costs for your employees or are you an individual trying to decide what kind of insurance is right for you? Hillary will help you decide, whether you agree or not. In an interview with the AP published on September 18th, Ms. Clinton posited her universal heath care goals and said, “At this point, we don't have anything punitive that we have proposed."

Let’s review that quote again, shall we? “At this point, we don’t have anything punitive….” Well then, “at this point” I feel so much better. Statements like those send shivers down the spines of people who understand Economics, those who have read the book “Witness” by Whittaker Chambers, and just about everyone to the right of Noam Chomsky.

In that interview Hillary also said that she could envision a day when "you have to show proof to your employer that you're insured as a part of the job interview—like when your kid goes to school and has to show proof of vaccination," and that the details of that would be worked out later. So, the arguably noble concept of “universal health care” slips quickly into the tyranny of “mandatory health care” where you will not be able to work at a job unless you do what the government tells you to do in the way that they tell you to do it. Thus presenting a new generation of complacent citizens with the object lesson that they so desperately need—confirming once again that all Socialism is rooted in tyranny and the loss of freedom.

[It is also worth noting that apparently Democrats believe that you should be required to show proof of insurance status in order to get a job, but that you should not be required to show effective proof of legal immigration status. Hmmmm….]

We always knew that Hillary Clinton was a Liberal-Socialist Trojan Horse. We just thought that she was going to be able to contain those related impulses until her hands were firmly on the reigns of power. But then, we have ample evidence that the Clinton clan is not so adept at restraining “impulses.”

The Clinton universal health care scheme is a thinly veiled Socialist power-grab that we on the right can effectively fight against. This is a debate we can win. Remember, we beat it before when everyone in politics believed that the Clinton Socialization schemes were a foregone conclusion. Rudy, Mitt, John, and Fred………are you paying attention at all?

Thank you Hillary Clinton—thank you for being you!

Be well,

Huckleberry

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Alan Greenspan Dissected – What his New Book “The Age of Turbulence” Tells Us

Get ready for the coming week as former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan’s new book “The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World” hits the shelves. Personally, I will watch with amusement as the pundits of finance and politics jump breathlessly to glean sage-like comments and observations from its pages. An advance copy of the book was leaked out (imagine that!) and selected tidbits are making the rounds already. Perhaps not surprisingly the leaked passages are on the order of criticism toward Republicans. One wonders if a leak would have happened at all had the reverse been so.

Never the less, Republicans do deserve a bit of criticism here and there and Mr. Greenspan is always good for an interesting comment or two. So even though an advance copy of the book has not been made available to this author, let’s take a quick peak at some the salacity flying about in Bob Woodward’s piece in the (Washington Post).

The Current Batch of Republican Leaders
With regard to President Bush, Greenspan writes, "My biggest frustration remained the president's unwillingness to wield his veto against out-of-control spending. Not exercising the veto power became a hallmark of the Bush presidency. . . . To my mind, Bush's collaborate-don't-confront approach was a major mistake." Later on Greenspan capitalized that thought by suggesting that the Republicans deserved to loose their legislative majorities last year, “The Republicans in Congress lost their way," Greenspan writes. "They swapped principle for power. They ended up with neither."

The Maestro Greenspan was not done with his Republican colleagues yet. He went on to write, "House Speaker Hastert and House majority leader Tom DeLay seemed readily inclined to loosen the federal purse strings any time it might help add a few more seats to the Republican majority." In a later passage he continued that line of thinking, "I don't think the Democrats won. It was the Republicans who lost. The Democrats
came to power in the Congress because they were the only party left standing."

Fair enough. The Conservative landscape is jam-packed with right-leaning pundits who have been criticizing the current administration in this regard for years (including yours truly)—so there is little new here that we know of yet. It will be interesting to hear how this is played out in the media, however. Read correctly, Mr. Greenspan’s criticisms seem to be that the Republicans were not Conservative enough in their approach and deeds and that this is his cause for concern. It is certainly not a ringing endorsement of the Democrat platform. I suspect that the tone of reporting will not reflect this important distinction.

What About Bill Clinton?
Evidently the book also reveals Greenspan’s fascination with Bill Clinton. There are a few telling passages we have available to us. In the first, Greenspan appears quite smitten with our most recent recalcitrant president, “Here was a fellow information hound. . . . We both read books and were curious and thoughtful about the world.” OK then, we all know that Bill Clinton is bright and can be very charming. But, like the rest of the nation, Alan Greenspan felt personally let down by that same charming façade.

Upon hearing about Clinton’s trysts with Monica Lewinsky (etc.), he could not believe it, writing, "I was incredulous. ‘There is no way these stories could be correct,’ I told my friends. 'No way.' " After learning that the reports were indeed accurate, he wrote, "I wondered how the president could take such a risk. It seemed so alien to the Bill Clinton I knew, and made me feel disappointed and sad."

Sorry Alan, we all had to live through that nightmare together.

The Iraq War
Alan Greenspan also makes a seemingly cryptic comment regarding the current Iraq conflict. Again according to the Post, Mr. Greenspan writes, "I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil." We are told that Mr. Greenspan does not elaborate. If true, his lack of elaboration is disappointing because of its apparent pop-liberal sensibility. One would expect such a comment from the ignorant left—the Cindy Sheehans and Daily Kos’ of the world, et al.

The comment is too trite to be well thought out and would betray a naiveté one would find surprising in a man of Alan Greenspan’s education and credentials. Economics always makes up a large part of why any country goes to war. Getting caught up in an individually labeled commodity or a particular activity is far too easy. Historically speaking one could argue that our entry into World War Two was also about oil due to our embargo of Japan; that our Civil War was about labor costs in agricultural production; that all of the Greco-Persian conflicts revolved around the taxation of trade routs; or even that our own Revolutionary War was about the restriction of tea imports: but to do so is to miss literally everything about a country’s sovereignty, freedom, security, and economic prosperity. (Can’t you just hear the Revolutionary War critics of the day—“No more blood for tea!”)

It is perfectly valid that Mr. Greenspan might be for or against the current Iraq conflict for any number of reasons. It will be disappointing if the quotation we have been provided is solely a politically correct malapropism tossed in as media fodder to aid book sales. It would be even worse if the complexities and economic consequences of the Iraq War were, to Alan Greenspan, a literary afterthought not worthy of serious consideration and dissertation. For now I will grant him the benefit of the doubt.

The Man Himself
The book makes us privy to other passages regarding economic principles and summations of the world economy (I’ll give away the ending—according to Mr. Greenspan the United States does quite well). In these comments and revelations, he has been given mostly positive reviews by those who have read the actual text. The book also contains his personal memoirs and the telling of his life with his spouse, television correspondent Andrea Mitchell.

All in all I do not believe that the electorate will be unduly influenced by the release of Alan Greenspan’s long-awaited book—nor will the pillars of capitalism be shaken. Hopefully, we will all get a little bit more insight into the mind of who was arguably one of the ten most powerful men in the world for a very long time.

Be well,

Huckleberry

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Government Mortgage Bailout Betrays Conservative Principles and Common Sense

Risk = Cost, Always
President Bush has decided to ask for allowances in federal programs to “protect” home owners. According to a recent MarketWatch article, the President’s plans include allowing stressed borrowers to refinance into government-insured loans, a related change to the tax code, the potential creation of a new government agency (the oddly New Deal-sounding “Reconstruction Mortgage Corporation”), and allowing government-sponsored mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to provide greater liquidity in the mortgage markets. More proposals may be on the horizon.

One of the biggest problems facing contemporary economies is the public’s disassociation from the Free Market/Value/Risk/Return equation. It is a fundamental law of economics. In a way, it is the economic equivalent of forgetting that gravity works. If one is foolish enough to leap from the rooftop, nature will not care if you have neglected to study Newtonian physics—down you will go.

Feeling loss-risk of one's home or equity—or any loss really—reaffirms this vital principle (yes, I have personal experience). This is the same argument against most welfare policies in general. For example: The age-old principle of "If one does not work, one does not eat" has been worn down by the latent brand of American-style Socialism that is present in our society (yet is still somehow alien to our true selves). What we forget is that even if one does not work and We The People ensure that such still eats—someone somewhere is indeed still working to trade value for that service.

The danger here is well understood in the realms of economics. The Administration’s proposals would only serve to transfer risk from one party to another (us)—and substantial risk it is. To coin a phrase, Risk can be neither destroyed or denied—it can only be distributed or transferred. I dare say that, in reality, the home owner is not the intended party being protected. Rather, the home owner is the palatable "face" being placed in front of the media and teaming crowds to better protect the banks, hedge funds, and big-ticket investors.

It is important to understand those financial institutions and individuals we are thus protecting have been well compensated for the risk in that they have been paid higher interest rates than they otherwise would have, and the sub-prime loans at the center of today’s troubles carried significant, often onerous, fees and charges. The financial big-wigs were paid an amount commensurate with the chances of loss so that they freely accepted that risk in order to obtain the rich rewards that might have resulted.

They forgot that these rich rewards were not ever, in fact, guaranteed. Guaranteed rewards do not have the potential to generate large fees and interest payments.

It is my opinion that We The People are being prepared to swallow hard the incumbent risk (risk always = cost) to protect those who were aware of the risks and justly compensated for it—even if they are not so good at math or statistics. Funny how no one has suggested that the financial institutions return the interest rate premiums and other dollars they have collected in the mean time. As these spoiled and recalcitrant hedge funds dip their soiled hands into our collective coffers, they should well consider that a government willing to bail them out from such losses now will certainly return to collect a disproportionate share of the profits when the sun shines again. If we sell our souls for a little temporary financial stability now, we will all pay the price in freedom and tyranny later. This is another law of economics and politics.

I am glad that Milton Friedman and Ronald Reagan are not here to witness the GOP abdication of the principles which ushered in repeated Conservative political victories and decades of economic success.


Be well,
Huckleberry

Liberalism Causes Cancer, Study Proves
Air America and Daily Kos Implicated

In a stunning revelation, scientists have confirmed the existence of a definitive study proving a distinct and direct correlation between liberal ideologies and certain diseases—including, the most common types of colorectal cancer. In a first-of-its-kind survey of nearly 2000 Colorectal Cancer patients, 99% of them were either liberals or had recently been exposed to a liberal within days of their diagnosis. Never has such a definitive link—with a nearly one-to-one relationship—ever been established before.

Eminent research physician Dr. O. P. DeAd, author of this ground-breaking and controversial report, launched his research project based upon personal experience. “I was having dinner with my parents one evening and the TV was on in the other room,” said Dr. DeAd. “On the air at the time was Meet the Press and the guest panelist was James Carville, the Democrat strategist and campaign consultant. After hearing Mr. Carville speak for several minutes, my father exclaimed, ‘That Carville is a huge pain in the ass!’ That was the first time I put two and two together and wondered if there could be an actual correlation.”

After interviewing several of the patients in his family practice, Dr. DeAd noted that several patients expressed the same Carville-related symptoms. The good Doctor had a close scrape himself when applying for the Federal Grant he used to finance the study. Shortly after beginning the application process to access tax dollars for his research, he had a sudden bout of severe hemorrhoids that required weeks of treatments. “I was amazed at the incredible amount of rectal pain involved with the Federal Grant process. There was a real risk that I might lose my ass altogether. After this personal experience, I was even more convinced that my hypothesis was correct.” said Dr. DeAd.

After allowing for factors such as television programming and James Carville in particular, the research pointed to a broader pathogen. “Most of the patients found the TV show ‘Meet the Press,” and James Carville in particular, to be fairly irritating—but we soon discovered that the majority of sufferers had been exposed to a broad spectrum of Democrats and Liberals in general. Nancy Pelosi, Al Franken, the Clintons; exposure to any of these irritants appears to validate our hypothesis. It is the entire Liberal spectrum that brings disease to the rectum.”

Although many criticize the methodology used to gather data for this research, Dr. DeAd points out that he studiously followed the rigorous scientific statistical methods employed by Global Warming proponents, by the various studies which demonstrate the successes of Federal Welfare Programs, and by Dan Rather’s journalistic research team; among others.

Is there a cure? Dr. DeAd’s research points to hopeful signs. Many of his patients have experienced immediate relief by reading the works of William F. Buckley and noted economist Milton Friedman. Clearly more work needs to be done, but the public is advised to avoid exposure to NPR, the Democrat Debates, The Daily Kos Web site, and the tattered remains of Air America until more is known.

Be well,
Huckleberry
(sometimes, it’s just for fun)

Friday, September 07, 2007

Luciano Pavarotti RIP

It is rare that one comes along who veritably defines his profession. Luciano Pavarotti was such a man.

Pavarotti was, in Operatic terms, an Italian Tenor. Close your eyes and think of that term; can any other image come to mind other than his bearded, cherubic face?

More than the special qualities of his voice, more than the range and the pop-culture duets, larger than the cultured il Divo persona—his passion for the music he sang so well is still unmatched. Find a video of Pavarotti singing the aria Nessun Dorma, from Puccini’s opera Turnadot (available on YouTube). Watch, upon completion of that magnificent and instantly recognizable piece as the rapture of the music itself falls across his face. We are moved equally by the quality of the performance and by Pavarotti’s passion for the music itself. It’s as if Giacomo Puccini wrote the piece just for him.

While most opera performers with lesser gifts cloister themselves away, Pavarotti was, in his own way, accessible to the masses. Perhaps it was his modest upbringing outside of Modena Italy that made him so. He sang with Beverly Sils and with Michael Bolton—with Placido Domingo and Aretha Franklin—with Jose Carreras and with Bono. Some will call attention to his obvious excesses and occasional scandals, but for today, let us only remember the music. And what truly great music it was!

The final line of Nessun Dorma translates “Vanish, night! Set, stars! Set, stars! At dawn, I will win! I will win! I will win!” Even in death, Luciano Pavarotti’s star will not set and we have all won by virtue of his life’s work.

Luciano Pavarotti, died September 6th, 2007, at 71. RIP.

Be well,
Huckleberry


Friday, August 31, 2007

Two Voices

In 1833, Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote this work or poetry. In order that it not be cast in the endless shade of a failing educational system, I offer it up to my readers today.

Two Voices
A still small voice spake unto me, ‘Thou art so full of misery, Were it not better not to be?’

Then to the still small voice I said; ‘Let me not cast in endless shade, What is so wonderfully made.’
To which the voice did urge reply; ‘To-day I saw the dragon-fly, Come from the wells where he did lie.

‘An inner impulse rent the veil, Of his old husk: from head to tail, Came out clear plates of sapphire mail.

‘He dried his wings: like gauze they grew; Thro’ crofts and pastures wet with dew, A living flash of light he flew.’

I said, ‘When first the world began, Young Nature thro’ five cycles ran, And in the sixth she moulded man.

‘She gave him mind, the lordliest, Proportion, and, above the rest, Dominion in the head and breast.’

Thereto the silent voice replied; ‘Self-blinded are you by your pride: Look up thro’ night: the world is wide.

‘This truth within thy mind rehearse, That in a boundless universeIs boundless better, boundless worse.

‘Think you this mould of hopes and fears, Could find no statelier than his peers, In yonder hundred million spheres?’

It spake, moreover, in my mind: ‘Tho’ thou wert scatter’d to the wind, Yet is there plenty of the kind.’

Then did my response clearer fall: ‘No compound of this earthly ballIs, like another, all in all.’

To which he answer’d scoffingly; ‘Good soul! suppose I grant it thee, Who’ll weep for thy deficiency?

‘Or will one beam be less intense, When thy peculiar differenece, is cancell’d in the world of sense?’

I would have said, ‘Thou canst not know, ’But my full heart, that work’d below, Rain’d thro’ my sight its overflow.

Again the voice spake unto me: ‘Thou art so steep’d in misery, Surely ’twere better not to be.

‘Thine anguish will not let thee sleep, Nor any train of reason keep: Thou canst not think, but thou wilt weep.’

I said, ‘The years with change advance: If I make dark my countenance, I shut my life from happier chance.

‘Some turn this sickness yet might take, Ev’n yet.’ But he: ‘What drug can make, A wither’d palsy cease to shake?’

I wept, ‘Tho’ I should die, I know, That all about the thorn will blow, In tufts of rosy-tinted snow;

‘And men, thro’ novel spheres of thought, Still moving after truth long sought, Will learn new things when I am not.’

‘Yet,’ said the secret voice, ‘some time, Sooner or later, will gray prime, Make thy grass hoar with early rime.

‘Not less swift souls that yearn for light, Rapt after heaven’s starry flight, Would sweep the tracts of day and night.

‘Not less the bee would range her cells, The furzy prickle fire the dells, The foxglove cluster dappled bells.’

I said that ‘all the years invent; Each month is various to present, The world with some development.

‘Were this not well, to bide mine hour, Tho’ watching from a ruin’d tower, How grows the day of human power?’

‘The highest-mounted mind,’ he said, ‘Still sees the sacred morning spread, The silent summit overhead.

‘Will thirty seasons render plain, Those lonely lights that still remain, Just breaking over land and main?

‘Or make that morn, from his cold crown, And crystal silence creeping down, Flood with full daylight glebe and town?

‘Forerun thy peers, thy time, and let, Thy feet, millenniums hence, be set, In midst of knowledge, dream’d not yet.

‘Thou hast not gain’d a real height, Nor art thou nearer to the light, Because the scale is infinite.

‘’Twere better not to breathe or speak, Than cry for strength, remaining weak, And seem to find, but still to seek.

‘Moreover, but to seem to find, Asks what thou lackest, thought resign’d, A healthy frame, a quiet mind.’

I said, ‘When I am gone away, “He dared not tarry,” men will say, Doing dishonour to my clay.’

‘This is more vile,’ he made reply, ‘To breathe and loathe, to live and sigh, Than once from dread of pain to die.

‘Sick art thou–a divided will, Still heaping on the fear of ill, The fear of men, a coward still.

‘Do men love thee? Art thou so bound, To men, that how thy name may sound, Will vex thee lying underground?

‘The memory of the wither’d leaf, In endless time is scarce more brief, Than of the garner’d Autumn-sheaf.

‘Go, vexed Spirit, sleep in trust; The right ear, that is fill’d with dust, Hears little of the false or just.’

‘Hard task, to pluck resolve,’ I cried, ‘From emptiness and the waste wide, Of that abyss, or scornful pride!

‘Nay–rather yet that I could raise, One hope that warm’d me in the days, While still I yearn’d for human praise.

‘When, wide in soul and bold of tongue, Among the tents I paused and sung, The distant battle flash’d and rung.

‘I sung the joyful Pæan clear, And, sitting, burnish’d without fear, The brand, the buckler, and the spear–

‘Waiting to strive a happy strife, To war with falsehood to the knife, And not to lose the good of life–
‘Some hidden principle to move, To put together, part and prove, And mete the bounds of hate and love–

‘As far as might be, to carve out, Free space for every human doubt, That the whole mind might orb about–

‘To search thro’ all I felt or saw, The springs of life, the depths of awe, And reach the law within the law:

‘At least, not rotting like a weed, But, having sown some generous seed, Fruitful of further thought and deed,

‘To pass, when Life her light withdraws, Not void of righteous self-applause, Nor in a merely selfish cause–

‘In some good cause, not in mine own, To perish, wept for, honour’d, known, And like a warrior overthrown;

‘Whose eyes are dim with glorious tears, When, soil’d with noble dust, he hears, His country’s war-song thrill his ears:

‘Then dying of a mortal stroke, What time the foeman’s line is broke, And all the war is roll’d in smoke.’

‘Yea!’ said the voice, ‘thy dream was good, While thou abodest in the bud. It was the stirring of the blood.

‘If Nature put not forth her power, About the opening of the flower, Who is it that could live an hour?

‘Then comes the check, the change, the fall, Pain rises up, old pleasures pall. There is one remedy for all.

‘Yet hadst thou, thro’ enduring pain, Link’d month to month with such a chain, Of knitted purport, all were vain.

‘Thou hadst not between death and birth, Dissolved the riddle of the earth. So were thy labour little-worth.

‘That men with knowledge merely play’d, I told thee–hardly nigher made, Tho’ scaling slow from grade to grade;

‘Much less this dreamer, deaf and blind, Named man, may hope some truth to find, That bears relation to the mind.

‘For every worm beneath the moon, Draws different threads, and late and soon, Spins, toiling out his own cocoon.

‘Cry, faint not: either Truth is born, Beyond the polar gleam forlorn, Or in the gateways of the morn.

‘Cry, faint not, climb: the summits slope, Beyond the furthest flights of hope, Wrapt in dense cloud from base to cope.

‘Sometimes a little corner shines, As over rainy mist inclines, A gleaming crag with belts of pines.

‘I will go forward, sayest thou, I shall not fail to find her now. Look up, the fold is on her brow.

‘If straight thy track, or if oblique, Thou know’st not. Shadows thou dost strike, Embracing cloud, Ixion-like;

‘And owning but a little more, Than beasts, abidest lame and poor, Calling thyself a little lower

‘Than angels. Cease to wail and brawl! Why inch by inch to darkness crawl? There is one remedy for all.’

‘O dull, one-sided voice,’ said I, ‘Wilt thou make everything a lie, To flatter me that I may die?

‘I know that age to age succeeds, Blowing a noise of tongues and deeds, A dust of systems and of creeds.

‘I cannot hide that some have striven, Achieving calm, to whom was given, The joy that mixes man with Heaven:

‘Who, rowing hard against the stream, Saw distant gates of Eden gleam, And did not dream it was a dream;

‘But heard, by secret transport led, Ev’n in the charnels of the dead, The murmur of the fountain-head–

‘Which did accomplish their desire, Bore and forebore, and did not tire, Like Stephen, an unquenched fire.

‘He heeded not reviling tones, Nor sold his heart to idle moans, Tho’ cursed and scorn’d, and bruised with stones:

‘But looking upward, full of grace, He pray’d, and from a happy place, God's glory smote him on the face.’

The sullen answer slid betwixt: ‘Not that the grounds of hope were fix’d, The elements were kindlier mix’d.’

I said, ‘I toil beneath the curse, But, knowing not the universe, I fear to slide from bad to worse.

‘And that, in seeking to undo, One riddle, and to find the true, I knit a hundred others new:

‘Or that this anguish fleeting hence, Unmanacled from bonds of sense, Be fix’d and froz’n to permanence:

‘For I go, weak from suffering here: Naked I go, and void of cheer: What is it that I may not fear?’

‘Consider well,’ the voice replied,‘ His face, that two hours since hath died; Wilt thou find passion, pain or pride?

‘Will he obey when one commands? Or answer should one press his hands? He answers not, nor understands.

‘His palms are folded on his breast:There is no other thing express’dBut long disquiet merged in rest.
‘His lips are very mild and meek:Tho’ one should smite him on the cheek,And on the mouth, he will not speak.
‘His little daughter, whose sweet faceHe kiss’d, taking his last embrace,Becomes dishonour to her race–
‘His sons grow up that bear his name,Some grow to honour, some to shame,–But he is chill to praise or blame.
‘He will not hear the north-wind rave,Nor, moaning, household shelter craveFrom winter rains that beat his grave.
‘High up the vapours fold and swim:About him broods the twilight dim:The place he knew forgetteth him.’
‘If all he dark, vague voice,’ I said,‘These things are wrapt in doubt and dread,Nor canst thou show the dead are dead.
‘The sap dries up: the plant declines.A deeper tale my heart divines.Know I not Death? the outward signs?
‘I found him when my years were few;A shadow on the graves I knew,And darkness in the village yew.
‘From grave to grave the shadow crept:In her still place the morning wept:Touch’d by his feet the daisy slept.
‘The simple senses crown’d his head:“Omega! thou art Lord,” they said,“We find no motion in the dead.”
‘Why, if man rot in dreamless ease,Should that plain fact, as taught by these,Not make him sure that he shall cease?
‘Who forged that other influence,That heat of inward evidence,By which he doubts against the sense?
‘He owns the fatal gift of eyes,That read his spirit blindly wise,Not simple as a thing that dies.
‘Here sits he shaping wings to fly:His heart forebodes a mystery:He names the name Eternity.
‘That type of Perfect in his mindIn Nature can he nowhere find.He sows himself on every wind.
‘He seems to hear a Heavenly Friend,And thro’ thick veils to apprehendA labour working to an end.
‘The end and the beginning vexHis reason: many things perplex,With motions, checks, and counterchecks.
‘He knows a baseness in his bloodAt such strange war with something good,He may not do the thing he would.
‘Heaven opens inward, chasms yawn,Vast images in glimmering dawn,Half shown, are broken and withdrawn.
‘Ah! sure within him and without,Could his dark wisdom find it out,There must be answer to his doubt,
‘But thou canst answer not again.With thine own weapon art thou slain,Or thou wilt answer but in vain.
‘The doubt would rest, I dare not solve.In the same circle we revolve.Assurance only breeds resolve.’
As when a billow, blown against,Falls back, the voice with which I fencedA little ceased, but recommenced.
‘Where wert thou when thy father play’dIn his free field, and pastime made,A merry boy in sun and shade?
‘A merry boy they call’d him then,He sat upon the knees of menIn days that never come again.
‘Before the little ducts beganTo feed thy bones with lime, and ranTheir course, till thou wert also man:
‘Who took a wife, who rear’d his race,Whose wrinkles gather’d on his face,Whose troubles number with his days:
‘A life of nothings, nothing-worth,From that first nothing ere his birthTo that last nothing under earth!’
‘These words,’ I said, ‘are like the rest;No certain clearness, but at bestA vague suspicion of the breast:
‘But if I grant, thou mightst defendThe thesis which thy words intend–That to begin implies to end;
‘Yet how should I for certain hold,Because my memory is so cold,That I first was in human mould?
‘I cannot make this matter plain,But I would shoot, howe’er in vain,A random arrow from the brain.
‘It may be that no life is found,Which only to one engine boundFalls off, but cycles always round.
‘As old mythologies relate,Some draught of Lethe might awaitThe slipping thro’ from state to state.
‘As here we find in trances, menForget the dream that happens then,Until they fall in trance again.
‘So might we, if our state were suchAs one before, remember much,For those two likes might meet and touch.
‘But, if I lapsed from nobler place,Some legend of a fallen raceAlone might hint of my disgrace;
‘Some vague emotion of delightIn gazing up an Alpine height,Some yeaming toward the lamps of night;
‘Or if thro’ lower lives I came–Tho’ all experience past becameConsolidate in mind and frame–
‘I might forget my weaker lot;For is not our first year forgot?The haunts of memory echo not.
‘And men, whose reason long was blind,From cells of madness unconfined,Oft lose whole years of darker mind.
‘Much more, if first I floated free,As naked essence, must I beIncompetent of memory:
‘For memory dealing but with time,And he with matter, could she climbBeyond her own material prime?
‘Moreover, something is or seems,That touches me with mystic gleams,Like glimpses of forgotten dreams–
‘Of something felt, like something here;Of something done, I know not where;Such as no language may declare.’
The still voice laugh’d. ‘I talk,’ said he,‘Not with thy dreams. Suffice it theeThy pain is a reality.’
‘But thou,’ said I, ‘hast missed thy mark,Who sought’st to wreck my mortal ark,By making all the horizon dark.
‘Why not set forth, if I should doThis rashness, that which might ensueWith this old soul in organs new?
‘Whatever crazy sorrow saith,No life that breathes with human breathHas ever truly long’d for death.
‘’Tis life, whereof our nerves are scant,Oh life, not death, for which we pant;More life, and fuller, that I want.’
I ceased, and sat as one forlorn.Then said the voice, in quiet scorn,‘Behold, it is the Sabbath morn.’
And I arose, and I releasedThe casement, and the light increasedWith freshness in the dawning east.
Like soften’d airs that blowing steal,When meres begin to uncongeal,The sweet church bells began to peal.
On to God’s house the people prest:Passing the place where each must rest,Each enter’d like a welcome guest.
One walk’d between his wife and child,With measured footfall firm and mild,And now and then he gravely smiled.
The prudent partner of his bloodLean’d on him, faithful, gentle, good,Wearing the rose of womanhood.
And in their double love secure,The little maiden walk’d demure,Pacing with downward eyelids pure.
These three made unity so sweet,My frozen heart began to beat,Remembering its ancient heat.
I blest them, and they wander’d on:I spoke, but answer came there none:The dull and bitter voice was gone.
A second voice was at mine ear,A little whisper silver-clear,A murmur, ‘Be of better cheer.’
As from some blissful neighbourhood,A notice faintly understood,‘I see the end, and know the good.’
A little hint to solace woe,A hint, a whisper breathing low,‘I may not speak of what I know.’
Like an Æolian harp that wakesNo certain air, but overtakesFar thought with music that it makes:
Such seem’d the whisper at my side:‘What is it thou knowest, sweet voice?’ I cried.‘A hidden hope,’ the voice replied:
So heavenly-toned, that in that hourFrom out my sullen heart a powerBroke, like the rainbow from the shower,
To feel, altho’ no tongue can prove,That every cloud, that spreads aboveAnd veileth love, itself is love.
And forth into the fields I went,And Nature’s living motion lentThe pulse of hope to discontent.
I wonder’d at the bounteous hours,The slow result of winter showers:You scarce could see the grass for flowers.
I wonder’d, while I paced along:The woods were fill’d so full with song,There seem’d no room for sense of wrong;
And all so variously wrought,I marvell’d how the mind was broughtTo anchor by one gloomy thought;
And wherefore rather I made choiceTo commune with that barren voice,Than him that said, ‘Rejoice! Rejoice!’


Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Dutch Bishop Urges Christians to Call God 'Allah'

Tiny Muskens, the bishop of Breda, Netherlands, asserts that the assimilation of Islamic citizens into the fabric of society would be facilitated by the rest of the good Dutch citizenry referring to God as 'Allah" in all manners and media. Of course, the good Bishop does not suggest that we mean it, necessarily. And we can trust his particular insights into the mind of God himself as we are assured by Fr. Muskens that it makes little difference what we call the divine creator.

While I am relatively certain that the Judeo-Christian God whom I have chosen to serve cares little for such labels (He who has no name and who even referred to himself solely through the declaration of his existence, "I Am"), it is even more certain that the Muslim population will not be convinced of my conversion if I continue to wear a golden cross about my neck. Surely this must go as well, for what does God care if a wear cross of crescent to express my faith?

And the uneducated terrorists are unlikely to spare me if I cry out to Allah whilst referring to the doctrines of mercy and forgiveness in the context of divine sacrifice, service, and the equality of all mankind. I do not believe that such concepts are properly taught in the Madrassas and safe-houses of Al Anbar'. Perhaps I should therefore only cry out references to the 79 virgins I will undoubtedly receive upon my death.

It seems that I have another problem--I am rather fond of Israel as a whole and that simply will not do. And further still, I regularly associate with known Jews. How thoughtless of me!

And to think that we, in our impertinence, have suggested that our Muslim brothers in arms simple adopt a policy of tolerance toward other religions! I will immediately remove the well-worn biography of Thomas Jefferson from my bookshelf and tear-up my hallowed copies of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence. See...easily done!

Isn't this all a small price to pay in order to help the Islamo-fascists assimilate into our culture?

Be well,

Huckleberry

Read the 'World Net Daily' article for yourself.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Church Scandals Shake Writer’s Faith
An open letter to William Lobdell of the Los Angeles Times

On July 21, 2007, William Lobdell, the religion writer for the LA Times, wrote an article expressing his frustrations with the subjects of his beat:
http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-lostfaith21jul21,0,3530015,full.story?coll=la-home-center
Below is Huckleberry's response.

Mr. Lobdell -

Has the rancor diminished? I would assume that your July 21 article would raise quite a ruckus amongst your regular readers and the faithful—pro and con. I trust that the uproar has subsided a bit and that you will feel comfortable reading one more letter on the topic.

If it is true that, as Samuel Johnson once so famously stated, “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel,” then allow me to expand this wisdom to say that religion is the scoundrel’s safe-house.

It is worth noting that that the oft-quoted Mr. Johnson was not saying that patriotism was, in itself, a bad or ignoble thing. Rather, he was commenting on the common trait for such scoundrels, when cornered, to quickly run for cover under the flag. Thus, they turn noble patriotism into a weapon against justice. But true patriotism remains unscathed.

Similarly, the formalized religions are easy marks for the sophistry of scoundrels. Many religions—and especially the Christian ones—are founded on the concepts of forgiveness and redemption. These theological concepts are child’s-play for the disingenuous to manipulate into a means of diverting accountability and avoiding penalty. Thus, they turn noble faith into a weapon against justice. True faith, however, remains unscathed.

In your article you describe your journey from faith into disillusionment. Fair enough. I suggest that you and your readers remember that the disillusionment is with the men and institutions surrounding faith and not necessarily with faith itself. Not to be overly dismissive, but transferring one’s justified frustrations otherwise would be like abandoning your favorite sports team because the vendors charged you too much for warm beer.

We are cautioned repeatedly to avoid idolatry and graven images. It is not for God’s sake that we received these instructions. For how can a bronze statue or crystal cathedral properly represent what we understand to be God? And if we deign to do so, can our faith be as easily dented or shattered? The contemporary concepts of priesthood are especially vulnerable because such priests are placed, by ecclesiastic authority and the priest’s own desire, at the gateway between God and the flock—providing the sacrament, dispensation, forgiveness, and penance associated with their vocation. Priests and the magnificent structures they inhabit can therefore quickly become the idols of those they serve. It would indeed take a special man of unique character and divinely inspire gifts to hold up such a load properly. Unfortunately, such special, unique, and inspired men are few and the gap between their occurrence increases with the passing centuries. In the end, they are just men. It should therefore not be surprising that we find, on occasion, scattered piles of dented metal and broken glass about the landscape, for this is how all idols fall whether they are Mormon, Catholic, Protestant, or otherwise.

We are right to seek justice. And it is good if we feel indignation and empathy for the suffering of victims. Should we hold priests and pastors to a higher standard? Certainly—that weeds out many of the disaffected and malingering scoundrels in search of a darkened corner to hide in. But we can only feel personally robbed of our faith if we have harbored some remnant of idolatry within us.

I wish you the best and ask only that you consider that your journey from faith into disillusionment is not yet completed and may one day return to faith once again.

Be well,
Huckleberry

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Fear
Your 'Ol pal Huckleberry posits some thoughts on human nature and one concept of Fear.


What is that characteristic that makes fear such a unique quality among mankind. It is true that animals have fear, but the fear experienced among animals is that of predator and prey; the shock of the unexpected; the tenuous and unfamiliar; and the anxiety that comes—like the Pavlovian ringing of the bell—from an associated experience or training. Mankind shares all of these petty fears with the animal kingdoms and then some. We develop fears of things where none would occur to the beasts of the field. And unlike the animals, we require no ringing bell or heavy-handed master to wring fear from our soul—we teach fear to ourselves.

Each of us can close our eyes and imagine ourselves. This is unique to us amongst all creation. As we do so, often we do not like what we see. There will be elements that we do like—other things we are unsure of. There are undoubtedly pieces that we see as simply bits of us that are neither good nor bad. All of these are jumbled up alongside other bits of baggage and treasures that we have carried along for the ride—imposed upon us through relationship and experience. But surely there is more. For none of us can ever be fully aware of how we understand ourselves fully. Just as there are unconscious pieces and bits that inform our peculiar tics and behaviors, there are unconscious bits and pieces of our definition of ourselves that we do not understand and may never be fully aware of. In any event, the mosaic of our self-definition only takes shape when viewed with some distance—like a fine mosaic of ceramic and glass, each shard of glazed clay and chip of stained crystal has sharp edges and smooth spots and various shapes and forms that are incongruous until one stands back from that whole. A few paces back, the colors blend and the shapes blur into form and an image appears. Many of those pieces were laid by our own had and are fraught with bits of denial and deception. This is, after all, our self-image—not necessarily our true image—and we added the denial and deception to fill in the gaps and missing pieces in vain attempt to see ourselves for ourselves. At some point then we think that we have a picture that is relatively complete.

We live our lives seeing all that happens to us in the light that bounces off of this self image. Eventually we convince ourselves that this image is reality--or at least it is "our" reality as if there were more than one.

There are those who then project this self image outward. They take their image and place its strictures onto the people and the world around them. Think of the man who cheats on his taxes or steals from, his employer because he believes that everyone cheats steals. He cannot accept the good in any man because he cannot find the good in himself.

There are others who project their image inwardly. Think of the person who believes himself worthless because he believes in conceit that others see him as worthless.

There are those who construct their opinion of themselves based upon this self-appraisal.

  • The captain of business who believes himself superior.
  • The master of a craft who sees himself defined by his skill.
  • The well-ordered mind that sees all within his control.
  • The disciplined athlete who sees himself as a physical sculpture of flesh.
  • The glutton who finds pardon and comfort in his girth.
  • The self-defeatist who satisfies his excuses in the vagaries of fortune.
  • The manic who justifies himself in his production of work.
  • There are so many more.

Each of us wraps the definition around ourselves as a blanket. We use it to shape our understanding of ourselves, our world, and all that we experience. In this it is comforting. But is it real or a distortion. Consider that each of us has anxiety, fear, despising, and dread of all things, experiences, people, and ideas that challenge this self-imposed mosaic of our soul.

Be well,
Huckleberry

Friday, July 20, 2007

Mac Magruder Supersizes Ignorance in the Illegal Immigration Debate

Mac Magruder, prominent Arizona businessman and owner of several MacDonald’s franchises, appeared on NPR radio on July 6th, 2007, in an attempt to support his position against Arizona’s new law that toughens employer penalties for knowingly hiring illegal workers.


It is painful to hear Mac Magruder fumble and flail has he tries to make his points (listen for yourself- http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=11784006 ) If I may summarize, Mac says that this law is bad because
  • The verification pilot program mentioned in the law is flawed—because Mac says so.

  • If the dictates of the law are followed to the letter and even-handedly applied to every applicant, that’s profiling. (This comment does not make sense in any language.)

  • It is un-Constitutional now because if we change the law, it will then be unfair. (Um…excuse me?)

  • The Governor knew the law was un-Constitutional when she signed it because it usurps Federal jurisdiction. (State Business licensing usurps Federal Law?)

  • No business is knowingly hiring Illegal workers. (He actually said that.)

  • Businesses that are hiring illegal worker deserve to be punished. (But, didn’t he just say that…Oh, never mind.)

  • People and jobs will flee the state. (Perhaps only the illegal ones will flee.)

  • We have entrapped all of the illegal workers by offering them jobs. (If they are entrapped, how can they flee?)

  • It’s really a racial issue—because Mac says so. (Forget all that “rule of law” mumbo jumbo.)

  • “Most of the people we are talking about are brothers and sisters down South; that are hard-working, wonderful people…they came here to build a better life….” (Since no one is hiring an illegal worker, who do you think Mac is talking about?)

  • The economic benefits of illegal workers far outweigh some of costs people are associating with our “friends coming from Mexico.” (Where do I begin? Outweigh some of the costs?

  • The economic benefits of who, exactly…since there are no businesses hiring illegal workers? Mac thinks all the illegal workers come from Mexico?)

It seems that Mr. Magruder cannot decide which argument to use, so he is trying them all on for size—supporting none of them effectively—and contradicting himself most of the time in the process. Mac has followed up his performance on NPR with several additional interviews on radio and in print that have added only consistency to his comments—but not quality. His thoughts are ill-informed and poorly presented, and so they remain unsatisfying on every level.

It is fitting and a touch ironic that Mac Magruder is in the business of fast-food—because, like the products he sells, his thoughts are over-cooked and quickly thrown together in a way that is not really good for any of us. How can one man, ostensibly a successful and savvy business leader, twist so much double-speak, ad hominem, and non-sequitur into a four-minute interview? Doesn’t he know that this is what we have Senators for? On the plus side, if this burger restaurant deal doesn’t pan out in the long run, he appears to be honing his skills for a career in liberal race-baiting. But I digress.

Big Mac is serving up a super-sized helping of self-serving sophistry with a side order of unpleasantness that will carry a price for Arizona far beyond the limits of any Value Menu. He is harming our wonderful state and its citizens of every configuration by degrading the valid arguments of his opposition and dragging honest dissenters through the grease-trap so that we all come out sticky and smelling bad. This technique failed when the Senate tried it, it failed again when President Bush tried it—it will fail now as well.

If the quality of one’s position is truly to be judged by the quality of one’s argument, then Business leaders like Mac Magruder and pro-illegal politicians have very weak positions indeed. I challenge “Wake Up Arizona” to stand legitimately on the field of ideas and present their case without the quick-fried fluff. I await their reply. Mr. Magruder, I suggest to you that Arizona has already “woken up” and that is precisely what is causing you so much angst.

Be well,
Huckleberry

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Global Spider Monsters

In 1960's horror films, a normal creature--usually an insect or lizard--wanders helplessly into some man-made disaster and is transformed. Let's say it's a spider. Anyway, this spider gets blasted by nuclear radiation, lasered by angry aliens who think we are wasting our planet, or poisoned by a toxic chemical spill and the next thing you know...Bam! The spider is sixty feet tall and munching down on poodle-skirted contestants from American Bandstand. (I always was a bit suspicious that Dick Clark was an alien mutant--but I digress)

The sheer number of movies and TV shows that followed this template is daunting. To use the term "ubiquitous" would be an understatement. But the formula works and is rather simple: Man-made disaster plus recognisable yet mildly creepy animal equals a sixty-foot tall reversal of the food chain and box-office success.

But what if the horrible monster created by unfeeling and wasteful mankind was, say two inches tall? Would the theatrical President of the United States call out the military or seek out the female scientist (who is a bit too attractive to be a scientist in real life) to solve the unsolvable? Would anyone really care? If the spider that is normally, say...1/2 inch high were to mutate into a fearsome 3/4 inch high, it is likely that the heroine would have to save mankind with a rolled up Sunday paper and no one would ever know the difference. In fact, would anyone suspect that there was ever a monster or mutation at all? We have all seen big, creepy spiders and--if we saw one just a little bit bigger or mildly creepier, we would likely think that this was just another big spider in the normal context of the realm of spider-dom. But if the spider were just a little larger than average no one would get scared--which is, after all, the whole point of the exercise.

Fast forward to today. Global Warming is the big, sixty-foot tall monster that has been created by bad and evil mankind. It is going to eat us all unless the President calls out the Army and good-looking scientists get free reign to solve the problem...whatever the cost. Mother nature has innocently walked through the exhaust emissions of our SUVs and coughed-up a disaster of unimaginable proportions.....right?

The problem is that, just like there are big spiders and little ones, the Earth has been at times a very warm place and at other times it has been a pretty cold one. Even the most aggressive and extremist prognostications by green-tinted socialists projects a scenario that is within the normal range of Earthy temperature fluctuations. The Earth has been warm enough for Greenland to be very green indeed, for grapes to grow well in England at one point, and for Mammoths to roam the Siberian plains which are now frozen tundra. In addition, good 'ol Mother Earth has been so chilly at times that glaciers covered huge swaths of the landmass and the sea-levels were so low that early man inhabited caves now submerged dozens of feet below current sea-level. These types of climactic shifting are the norm for our dear planet. Sometimes the changes happened rather swiftly, indeed. And these are just the examples at the extremes. Science and history provide us with evidence of hundreds if not thousands of lesser fluctuations in average climate. Even these lesser climactic oscillations were on the order of dozens of average degrees--still a multiple of what the fringe Global Warming pundits conjure in their nightmares.

So this means that even if we were to turn off all "green-house gas emissions" tomorrow, the Earth may warm up anyway--and could go even hotter just to spite us. It also means that such an extreme warming (and by extreme I mean the most dire Global Warming prediction of 5 or 6 degrees) is not even a blip on the Earthly scale. This spider--even in its worst-case--is only a little bit bigger than the one uncle John squashed for Aunt Martha on the back porch.

Statisticians call this gap a standard deviation. In other words, the range that is normally expected to occur in a dynamic system. For example, when the weather man says that the "normal" temperature for the day is, say 90 degrees, what he is really saying is that the "average" temperature is 90 degrees--sometimes it's hotter and sometimes it's colder. In fact, it is rare that the actual temperature on any given day is the average temperature because MOST times it is either a little hotter or a little colder. As long as the temperature is within it's standard deviation, nobody should be surprised at all.

Well, welcome to Global Warming folks. Even the absolute worst sky-is-falling-chicken-little-scenarios of the Eco-tyranny Movement fall well within the standard deviations of good 'ol regular climate. In fact, it leaves one wondering whether Mother Earth has even noticed that 1/2 half of us drive cars a bit bigger than we really need. It might also be worth noting that, according to the Earth Sciences, Earth at one time had an atmosphere that consisted ONLY of so-called "green-house gasses" (CO2, methane, and ammonia) and that this was the cradle of life. But I digress.

Suffice it to say that, since all of the temperature forecasts are in the"normal-range" and the Climate could randomly decide to go all "warm" or "cold" on us at any time without consulting Greenpeace or Al Gore, is there really anything that we can or should do about it? The truth is that, even if there is a monster, it is only about 1/2" inch tall and it would be better to leave the President alone (he has a bunch of other issues to attend to). It may be more productive to whack Al Gore with a rolled up newspaper and call the issue done.

I'm not saying that we should ignore important issues. Far from it. But it is vital that we keep our perspective. If we were to adopt the positions and policies advocated by the Global Warming proponents, the world would sacrifice trillions of dollars in real value and productivity to effect a world-wide average temperature correction of +/- 3 degrees centigrade one hundred years from now in the off-chance that Mother Nature will not decide differently. Mother Nature (in the form of sun spot activity, water vapor, volcanic activity, plant growth, etc.) can--and often does--toss up changes to climate trends. It's not that she is trying to mess around with us, it's more like she is unaware that we are even here at all. Actually, Mother Nature has no conscience or reason--she just is.

In fact, recent history is full of examples. Just the other day another Woolly Mammoth was discovered frozen in time--wholly preserved because the last cold snap happened very quickly--and millennia before the first SUV rolled off the assembly line. Woolly Mammoths roamed the Siberian Stepps and ate trees and grasses because....drum-roll please.....the Earth was a much warmer place. Far warmer that a couple of metric degrees above today's averages. The ensuing cold snap caught them largely unaware and thus we occasionally find caches of Woolly Mammoth frozen solid and ready for defrost and a quick Bar-B-Q. (Mammoth; the other white meat!)

So, to sum up: It will be difficult to determine how much change--if indeed there is any--is associated with CO2 emissions because Mother Nature plays a shell game with the climate on a regular basis and--even if the climate were not a moving target--the amount of temperature change impact would be indistinguishable from normal temperature fluctuations. Everything else is just scary music and theatrics. It may sell movie tickets, but you do not set economic and environmental policy based upon a movie....Do you?

Be well,
Huckleberry

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

To Kyl or Not to Kyl?
(With appologies to the Immortal Bard and Hamlet himself, 'Ol Huckleberry struggles with the conservative quandry that Jon Kyl--a fine man--has put us in.)


"To Kyl, or not to Kyl: that is the question:
Whether ‘tis nobler in politics to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous legislation
Or to take arms against a sea of illegal immigration
And by opposing, defeat a Senator?
And by defeat to say we end
The heartache and the thousand taxes and lies
That politics is heir to, ‘tis a royal screwing!
Therefore devoutly we wish to defeat him,
In defeat, perchance, to replace him: ay there’s the rub;
For in the joyful replacement what sophistry will come
When we have shuffled off the offending cur
Must give us pause: there’s the respect
That makes calamity of so free a democracy
For who would bear the whips and scorns of the devil we know,
The oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely,
The pangs of interns coddled, the law’s delay,
The insolence of office and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
Within the voting booth? Who would fardles bear,
To grunt and sweat under heavy taxation,
But that dread of something after tar and feather applied,
The unknown quality of Senator new from whose bourn
May put lie to election returns, puzzling the will
And makes us rather bear those Sophi-crats we have
Than to fly to others that we know not of?
Thus non-confidence makes consenters of us all;
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action. – Soft you now!
The fair Liberty! Nymph, in thy orisons
Be all these sins remember’d."

Be well
Huckleberry
(read the related article at PHXNews here: http://phxnews.com/fullstory.php?article=50140 )

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Welcome to the Main Event

Announcer: Ladies and Gentlemen! Welcome to the Main Event of the evening!

In this corner, weighing in at a sloppy 25,000 pounds; with swollen noses and wearing brown-stained Armani trunks are the 100 Senators of the United States…Senators! [boo, hiss, grumble]

In the opposing corner, weighing in at 300 million votes; carrying the rule of law, reason, and a well-defined sense of fair play upon their shoulders; and wearing Red, White, and Blue Trunks are the Citizens of the United States…Citizens! [yea!]

Referee: Alright gentlemen, I want a fair fight. No ad hominem arguments or name calling—just go out there and debate the issue at hand and do what’s right for the country.

Citizens: Hey…the Senator's boxing gloves are stuffed with cash and rolled coins.

Referee: Those are campaign contributions, questionable book deal revenues, and consulting contract income.

Citizens: Is that fair?

Referee: No,…what’s your point? At the sound of the Liberty Bell, come out swinging.

[Ding!]

Announcer: And the Senators make the first move!

Senators: It’s not really “Amnesty,” It’s more like a “Pardon!”

Citizens: That makes no sense.

Senators: What we have now is “De-facto Amnesty!”

Citizens: So we should go from “De-facto Amnesty” to “Actual Amnesty?”

Senators: It’s actually “Earned Citizenship!” Quick—someone get me a Thesaurus!!

Citizens: You’re not fooling anyone.

Senators: You're a Racist! You want to break up families! Hamburgers will be $20 each! Who’s going to pick my lettuce?? You just don't understand the issues! If we legalize them then they will vote for us!!!!!!

Announcer: A large cut has opened up in the Senators' position—the audience gasps as the Citizens come charging back!

Citizens: We tried the legalization thing before and you guys did nothing to enforce the laws. You passed a bill to build a border fence and then play political games with it so it won’t get built.

Announcer: Body-Blow! Body-Blow!

Senators: This is all the fault of talk-radio fear-mongers who have to be stopped!

Citizens: You mean those guys who helped you all get elected last time?

Announcer: The Senators are realing—bearly able to stand on their own two feet!

Citizens: Your plan doesn’t make economic, legal, or moral sense at all.

Senators: It’s the best deal we could make! It’s even Bi-partisan and everything!!

Citizens: You are running this thing like a game of Three-Card-Monte. No matter what we choose, we lose, because you are the guys dealing the cards and deciding what the choices are. I’ve had enough of this—we’re going to vote your deal-making, double-talking, legacy seeking, self-centered butts right out of office!

Senators: So you do not like this immigration bill? Why didn’t you just say so?

Announcer: The Senators have just run out of the ring and are sprinting for the door!

Referee: The winner, defender of liberty, and still champion of Constitutional Republican governance…The Citizens! [yea!]

Well, the good guys took this round with the defeat of the terrible Immigration bill in the Senate. But don’t forget, friends—the Senators will be back for another round of Sophistry and Mayhem. Let’s make sure that we are ready for them.

Be well,
Huckleberry

Monday, June 25, 2007

Immigration--Where do Solutions Begin?
In fact, they begin right here! (With a little Milton Friedman wisdom thrown in for good measure.)

And it begins with the truth that we are still talking about illegal immigration--not "immigrants" or "migrants" or any others who might legally lay claim to opportunity in this country. Let's dispense will all the talk of racism, nativism, and the rest. We have all seen, heard, and read the dribbling rants of those who are racists out there. We know them when we see them. There are elements of that everywhere and on both sides of this debate. They are the fringe, the out-landers to the American Dream--but they are a noisy lot at times and ultimately cowards. Let us set the misanthropes aside as history undoubtedly will do and get ourselves on to the business at hand.

Arizona is the Huckleberry State
I am a native Arizonan (not of the "Native-American Tribal" variety, but still enough of a rarity) and have witnessed a great deal regarding illegal immigration first-hand. I have seen illegal immigrants who work exceedingly hard and generally within the context of legality (of course, excepting their immigration status) and I have been the victim of crime at the hands of....how do we now say this...."doubly illegals?" Again, I am not shocked by the fact that a societal subset contains elements of both. Any random set of humanity with sufficient scope would do the same.

Ideas--At Least I Know Where to Start
Only you can determine if you believe that 'Ol Huck has something constructive to offer on this matter, but let me give you a taste. It is my contention that:
  • The most important elements in any solution to illegal immigration are sequence, measure, and pacing. (Think of how the Fed manages interest rates to avoid "shocking" the economy.)
  • The most fearful aspects of the current legislation are that it was quickly negotiated in secret and, in fact, the most current version is unavailable for public review. (Never a good sign. The Heritage Foundation managed to review an early summary before they published their scathing account.)
  • It is vital to remember that any solution must take into account the relative incompetence of the Federal government in administrating such programs. (Milton Friedman once said, "If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in 5 years there'd be a shortage of sand.").
  • It is also important to view the current proposal in the context of the failures of the previous attempt in 1986 and to not repeat those errors (Milton Friedman also said, "Governments never learn. Only people learn.").
  • Finally, incentives must be in place to induce lawfulness. It is clear to me that the Senators do not have a firm enough grasp of Economics to place these incentives in the correct locations. I would argue that the incentives, as I understand them, contained in the current bill encourage lawlessness. (one last Milton Friedman quote, "Concentrated power is not rendered harmless by the good intentions of those who create it." He was a pretty bright guy, eh?)

But What About the Families and the Children, etc.?
With regards to this issue it is also plain that many are leading from their heart. I do not fault them too much for this. Grace, mercy, and compassion are the hallmarks of my faith--political and theological. But we do not benefit those who wish to come to our country under noble goals and lofty aspirations if, by doing so, we lessen the quality or value of that which they seek to achieve. In so doing, the "economy" of Freedom is put into Recession and the sum total of "good" is diminished. If the mechanism is properly in place and the "market" for such remains governed by the rule of law, only then does each transaction (of immigration) add value to the whole. This is true of every system designed by the hand of man.

Enforcement Slander
Before I sign off, I would also offer that the majority of opponents to the bill (excepting a few) are not necessarily "pro-enforcement-only" as is commonly inferred. Rather, they are largely "Pro-enforcement-first" (not the same thing) and that any government unwilling to enforce current laws cannot be trusted to enforce any.

We keep hearing John McCain and other politicians parroting the party-line:

"Those who oppose this legislation have a duty to propose an alternative."

I would have hoped that the legislators involved might have asked this same question of us prior to their first, clandestine Drafting sessions. I assure you that I would have spoken up. Now, each attempt that I and my philosophical brethren make to contact our representatives is met with disdain, slander, and silence.

"You want solutions and alternatives?
Here I am John, but it appears that you will not take my call."

Be well,
Huckleberry