Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day trip to Sgt. York Historic Park

I took a three hour round trip to Pall Mall (pronounced /ˈpæl ˈmæl/ pal mal by residents) in order to a pay visit to the Sgt. York Historic Park. It was long overdue.

Most people are already generally familiar with York's exploits during World War I in large part due to the movie plus some general readings here and there. To get more in-depth about his life, I suggest checking out "Sgt York: His Life, Legend & Legacy". Much of his later life was spent seeking to improve the welfare of his fellow beings through improved education, economic opportunities and sharing the gospel of Christ. He stated once "When I die, I had rather it be said about me that I gave my life toward aiding my fellow man than for to be said that I became a millionaire, through capitalizing on my fame as a fighter. I do not care to be remembered as a warrior, but one who helped others to Christ".

Happy Birthday Clint Eastwood!

Not much more needs to be said about Clint Eastwood's career. It pretty much speaks for itself. I remember an interview he did with Parade Magazine in 1992 around the time Unforgiven came out that he likely wouldn't ever retire. He is still going strong at 80. Not bad when most people want to retire in their 60's. Of course, Ronald Reagan, Bobby Bowden, and Joe Paterno would be comparable in that regard. The fact he has been on top of his game for around 50 years is a testament to his love for the craft and his ability to relate to this audience.

Like many people, I enjoy the "Dollars" trilogy with "For A Few Dollars More" being my favorite of the bunch. I enjoy the on-screen partnership with Lee Van Cleef most of all. Of course, aside from this, his most famous role is Harry Callahan. Since the 1980's, most of Eastwood's work has been behind the camera. He has be able to re-invent himself from the macho movie star to a competent director/producer/composer. That shows he is not afraid to take on new challenges and embrace the possibilities. Most people see themselves only doing one thing their whole lives and it traps people into a vicious cycle of dead-end jobs, just punching the clock, pay the bills because it has to be done. If you are going to dedicate the majority of your life to work, you might as well do something you enjoy anyways.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

What Is Not Being Addressed In The Immigration Debate

The issue of immigration has really been on the front pages this year. Whether it is purely for political purposes or come as the result of realizing that has gone awry is anyone's guess.

Of course, if we truly wanted to be consistent about immigration, legal or illegal, how come nothing is being done about the immigration coming from Canada, Europe and Asia? I am sure the natives would have something to say about that. To really understand the root cause of this, one must first understand the rather unfortunate state of affairs south of the border. A little history is in order.

"I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class thug for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents." Smedley Butler, "War Is A Racket"

The pre-dominant economic system in the Eastern and Western Hemisphere is one that is a mix of fascism aka the corporate state and communism aka the poor person's statism. I do agree with some that NAFTA to a large degree has played a role in the economic collapses that we've been witnessing lately. But it was merely a symptom of the problem, not the cause of the problem. As Alan Greenspan so succiently put it (before he went over to the dark side): "In the absence of the gold standard, there is no way to protect savings from confiscation through inflation. There is no safe store of value. If there were, the government would have to make its holding illegal, as was done in the case of gold. If everyone decided, for example, to convert all his bank deposits to silver or copper or any other good, and thereafter declined to accept checks as payment for goods, bank deposits would lose their purchasing power and government-created bank credit would be worthless as a claim on goods. The financial policy of the welfare state requires that there be no way for the owners of wealth to protect themselves."

Folks, while I don't enjoy upsetting your apple care (then again, I've done it quite a bit over the past 10-15 years), the economic problems we are experiencing isn't because of the free market, but in spite of it. We are in fact witnessing the end results of the welfare state. The economies of welfare states inevitably collapse. It has happened in numerous other countries and yes, it has been happening in the United States, the land of the free and the home of the brave. But I've been having my doubts as to whether we are as "free" and "brave" as we like to claim. Perhaps I should insert "the few" along with the free and brave.

While we address this "immigration problem", don't ignore the underlying causes of it. Otherwise, we are just going around in circles. Only by embracing liberty-oriented options can it be solved. We must be careful to not adopt statist measures to address a problem that was caused by statism in the first place.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Happy Birthday John Wayne!

As much as I love movies and stars from Hollywood's Golden Age, much to my surprise, I've not written once about John Wayne. Shame on me, but I make amends on his birthday. Below is the scene that made Wayne the recognizable face that is known all over the world. Yet, he received second billing to Claire Trevor. But as they say, the rest is history. There aren't many people whose image is bigger than the human being, but John Wayne is. He is as big if not bigger than Superman and Mickey Mouse.

But what many people may not be familiar with is that aside from "The Big Trail" which was a huge flop then is that for almost 15 years, he was basically a struggling B-movie actor who worked in about 100 movies until "Stagecoach". Then from 1940 until he retired in 1976, he made another 100 movies or so almost always as the star or co-star. He certainly had a tremendous work ethic. It probably didn't leave much time for anything else. In particular I enjoyed his brief role in "Baby Face" where Barbara Stanwyck had his way with him. Just trying to get my head around Wayne wearing a suit and tie, working the 9-5 grind as a banker in the Big Apple takes a leap of imagination. He certainly belongs out west. It disappoints me that Barbara and John never made another movie together. She could have been the sidekick of sorts that Maureen O'Hara would later fulfill. I also would have liked to have seen Wayne and Clint Eastwood in a movie. I read once that Eastwood once commented that he pitched a story idea to Wayne once, but Wayne rejected him out of hand because he felt Eastwood's movies were too violent.

Plenty has been said about Wayne's life and career and I won't need to add anything more. I do however find Wayne's career following a similar trajectory that was going on in national and international affairs. He goes from being an upstart who took on whatever job he could get, finally broke through after earning his stripes, stayed on top for a long time and ended it in a proper fashion with "The Shootist". That is just the way he would have wanted it.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Should Illegal Drugs Be Legalized?

(Originally written as a report for a paralegal course in 2003.)

The “Drug Culture” is not a new development. Sumerian cuneiform tablets from 3000 B.C. show a poppy harvest, as do ancient Egyptian scripts and Greek statues adorned with poppy crowns.(1) Opium is said to have been introduced into China by the Arabs probably in the 13th century, and it was originally used there as a medicine.(2) The original Coca-Cola recipe contained cocaine until it was replaced by caffeine in 1903.(3)

The War on Drugs is not a recent event or even a uniquely American event. The British fought the Opium War in the 1840’s.(4) Some of the earliest involvement by the United States with the drug trade goes back to the Spanish-American War. Upon winning the Philippines, many of the colonial administrators of the Philippines were appalled at the high rate of opium smoking among the population.(5)

While international efforts by the United States fell short, in 1911, Hamilton Wright, the State Department’s opium commissioner, attempted to draft legislation to curb the flow of opium into the United States.(6) It met opposition from the States, the medical profession, pharmacists, and pharmaceutical companies. After nearly three years of debate, Congress passed the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act on December 17, 1914 (named for Representative Francis Burton Harrison, who introduced the initial form of the bill).(7) Originally, it was meant to be a registration law: doctors, pharmacists and vendors would submit paperwork on all drug transactions. But the Treasury Department quickly used violations of the law to shut down legitimate practices as well as dope clinics and illicit drug stores.(8) Later developments included the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act and Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970.

The War on Drugs has been on a pretty consistent swing since the Nixon Administration. There are various reasons cited for the War on Drugs. The Reagan Administration’s “Just Say No to Drugs” campaign was in large part lead by Nancy Reagan. The purpose of this campaign was to bring awareness to the dangers of drug abuse.(9) According to President Bush in a speech in May, 2001, when he introduced John Walters as the newest Drug Czar, he stated that illegal drugs cost more than 100 billion every year, principally from lost productivity. He also stated that the human tragedy of drug use can’t be measured in dollar figures such as lost lives, educational and job opportunities, families torn apart, and health care costs. He states that illegal drugs cost as much as $15 billion a year in health care costs as well as many as 20,000 people die each year from drug use.(10)

Opponents of drug legalization cite a number of arguments for opposing the legalization of drugs. Among these are that drug use and addiction would increase greatly. Hospitals would have to deal with many more cases of drug overdose. Child abuse would increase. Other reasons are there would be more drug-related accidents at work and on the road. Id

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, approximately 65% of the cocaine smuggled into the United States crosses the Southwest border. A kilogram of cocaine costs about $25,000 at the wholesale level. U.S. Federal authorities seized about 103 metric tons of cocaine in 2000 compared to 135 metric tons in 1999. Nationwide, in 2000, South Asian heroin ranged from $50,000 to $200,000 per kilogram. SEA and SWA heroin ranged in price from $40,000 to $190,000. Wholesale-level prices for Mexican heroin were the lowest of any type, ranging from about $13,000 to $175,000 per kilogram. The wide range in kilogram prices reflects variables such as buyer/seller relationships, quantities purchased, purchase frequencies, purity, and transportation costs. U.S. Federal law enforcement authorities seized 1,575 kilograms of heroin in 2000 compared to 1,149 kilograms in 1999.(11)

In a report put out by the Office of Drug Control Policy in 2000, it stated that $25,000 for a kilogram of cocaine “is a high price for a product that is basically agricultural, requires inexpensive chemical processing, and has minimal shipping costs absent interdiction. Consequently, source zone and transit zone programs almost certainly explain the high wholesale prices.”(12)

Domestic law enforcement operates on drug prices in three ways. First, domestic law enforcement seizes some of the illegal drugs, which in turn reduces the supply and/or increases the cost of the product. Second, drug dealers engage in a substantial risk in getting caught and incarcerated. Third, because drug dealing is illegal, contracts between buyers and sellers are unenforceable, and violence often substitutes as a means of enforcing deals. Due to such substantial risk, dealers charge higher prices to compensate. Id

Opponents of the Drug War argue that these astronomical prices are precisely one reason why such drugs need to be legalized. Opponents point to the alcohol prohibition of the 1920’s as an earlier example of how prohibition fails.13 Critics point to organized crime and smaller gangs sought to fill the void in the market made illegal by Prohibition. When the 18th Amendment was repealed by the 21st Amendment, alcohol was again legal and criminal gangs were out of the liquor business.(14)

As for the argument that drug use is immoral and harmful, some say such an argument points out the hypocrisy involved asking why some drugs should be illegal and while others are legal. Opponents also argue that police and military personnel are being misallocated in a war that can never be won. More than 19,000 state and local police work full-time on drug cases. Another 8,000 military personnel are deployed in Drug War missions.(15) It is further argued that drub abuse should be treated as a medical problem and not a law enforcement problem.

When a government report goes as far to admit that $25,000 for a kilogram of cocaine is a “high price for a product that is basically agricultural, requires inexpensive chemical processing, and has minimal shipping costs absent intrerdiction” and that law enforcement efforts almost certainly explain such high prices, factored in imprisoning drug users and policing the border, the War on Drugs certainly appears to be a ploy for power and being used as an excuse to put people in prison. Gangs aren’t fighting it out over alcohol, aspirin and tobacco. Gangs didn’t fight it out over cocaine, heroin, and marijuana at one time either. The exorbitant prices are a prime motive for engaging in the drug trade, which would not occur if it were legalized. Drug abusers could get treatment without fear of arrest and police personnel could be served on murders, rapes, kidnapping and other charges.

1 Chelsie Vandaveer, How did a ban of tobacco lead to opium smoking?

2 Opium in China

3 Drug Control Policy in the United States: Historicial Perspective bin/byteserv.prl/~ota/disk1/1994/9435/943515.PDF

4 Richard Hooker, The Opium Wars

5 Dr. Kevin McCauley, History of Drug Laws: The Harrison Narcotic Act

6 Id

7 Harrison Narcotics Act, 1914

8 Dr. Kevin McCauley, History of Drug Laws

9 Just Say No: Mrs. Reagan’s Crusade

10 Remarks by the President on the 2002 National Drug Control Strategy

11 Drug Enforcement Administration: DRUG TRAFFICKING IN THE UNITED STATES

12 The Price of Illicit Drugs: 1981 through the Second Quarter of 2000

13 Should We Re-Legalize Drugs?

14 History of the Prohibition Act of 1920 in America

15 Does the War on Drugs really enrich terrorists and make America less safe?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Summer Break is upon us

The semester is over now. I've applied at a number of places for summer work, but may not know anything for sure for a few more weeks. Of course, most places aren't actively hiring. But hopefully, I can at least find some part-time work to keep some money coming in. I am also gathering information on various counties and contacting some education administrators to get an idea of what job market is like. I should graduate next year although not sure if it will be the Spring or Fall.

Football practice starts in August. With 32 incoming freshman and several new coaching hires, there has been some changes that will keep the Carson-Newman Eagles moving along as Ken Sparks enters his 31st year.

I Beat To My Own Drummer

"Anarchism is not a romantic fable but the hardheaded realization, based on five thousand years of experience, that we cannot entrust the management of our lives to kings, priests, politicians, generals, & county commissioners." Edward Abbey

I've been fascinated by how movements and trends get started be it cultural, political, clothing styles and what not. I've been keenly aware since childhood about the pressure to conform to "society's standards" whatever those standards may be. While to a small degree there may be nothing wrong with this, if left unchecked, it can lead to persecutions, mass murder (including war), and collectivization. In a nutshell, society generally runs on the herd mentality. Herd mentality and herd behavior have been prevalent descriptions for human behavior since people began to form tribes, migrate in groups, and perform cooperative marketing and agricultural functions. Religion can also be used to soothe the masses by claiming that all of society united under a central ruler can answer all of life's questions. Religion is about doing what is acceptable of the society in which you are in. A relationship with God is an entirely different matter. "Created in the image of God, a human being is the crowning work of God's creation. Human personality is sacred and life's highest value. To deny freedom of conscience to any person is to debase God's creation."

The idea of a "group mind" or "mob behavior" was first put forward by 19th century French social psychologists Gabriel Tarde and Gustav Le Bon. As was the case thousands of years ago, there are leaders and there are followers. These days, "public opinion" is done through celebrity worship and mass media. All the while, the elites claim they can make all the common people's "problems" go away by just blindly trusting in what they say and do. It can be very difficult to separate yourself from the surrounding culture. Doing so surely will invite hangings on the cross, stone throwing, insults, to name a few ways the masses dictate conformity. But in the end, we are judge by our own individual actions. Don't let the masses dictate how the central character of you is developed.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Should I Build An Ark?

With all the rain that has be brought down on Tennessee this past few days, I'm beginning to wonder if I should put my carpentry skills to work and build an Ark. West and Middle Tennessee have really been hit hard by the storms. For the most part, East Tennessee has been limited to one tornado in Fentress County and heavy rains throughout most of the region. I'm sure that the pets will enjoy the show that a big boat would bring.