They Fought the Law

…and the law won. For now at least. Here’s the Wall Street Journal’s report on this week’s Federal raid of the Gibson Guitar factories.

You read that correctly. Our Justice Department has seen fit to sic the law dogs on a guitar factory.

Gibson responds thusly. And there’s this interview with their CEO from Dana Loesch, in which he asserts the government’s position is “prove your innocence or we’ll shut you down.”

Think about that statement. NO ONE in this country has to prove their innocence of a single damned thing, no matter what they’re charged with. Burden of proof falls on the accuser, not the accused.

Giving them the benefit of the doubt — and I am, based on that quaint little “innocent until proven guilty” notion — this raises a number of bothersome questions.

Why do the Feds have it in for Gibson? Because this isn’t the first time this has happened. Do they not have the same concerns with Fender or Paul Reed Smith (now there’s some fine woodwork) for that matter? If not, why? Did someone in Nashville not grease the right palms in DC?

Even more to the point: assuming Gibson’s legal interpretation is correct, what in hell is the US Justice Department smoking to make it think it has a duty to enforce Indian law? What kind of precedent are they trying to establish? Because you’d better believe a bunch of crafty government lawyers are thinking just that any time they venture off into what is essentially uncharted territory. If they’re not, then Justice is scraping the bottom of the law-school barrel. Which maybe they are.

After first reading of this yesterday, I realized something: it seems that almost every single day, I stumble into yet another story of unbelievable government overreach. For all of last decade’s caterwauling about the Patriot Act, our present situation seems to be much worse on any number of fronts. Some of it appears to be clear harassment by the government of industries it just doesn’t like. In others, so much has been quietly criminalized that just about anyone could be brought up on Federal charges if they decided to look hard enough.

To recount a few examples:

The parents of a little girl in Virginia are fined over $500 because she nursed an injured bird back to health. Too bad it turned out be an endangered species.

NRLB vs. Boeing. ‘Nuff said there.

EPA regulating dust. Seriously: dust. A naturally occuring pollutant.

I’ll add more to the list when there’s time.

What is going on here? I’m pretty sure I know, but want to hear what everyone else thinks. Are we finally becoming the banana republic so many of us feared when The One was elected?

UPDATE: Apparently the answer to the last question is yes. Should other non-union businesses whose executives donate to Republicans (and compete with Democratic donors) be looking over their shoulders?

(In the interest of disclosure, I’m a big Gibson fan. I own an early 70’s Les Paul.)

Semper Flatulent

Marines in Afghanistan have been ordered to stop farting so much.

If the Commandant’s serious about this, he’d best do something about the crap that goes into the MREs we feed those guys. ‘Cause let me tell you…

Never mind. Not going there. Let’s just say your average dinner of MRE beef stew and combat fruitcake can leave one a little rancid a few hours later.

And I’m quite fed up with our national hand-wringing over offending people. It’s a war. Wars tend to offend all sorts of sensibilities.

News Team, Assemble!

Well then. Here’s something you don’t see every day:

Ohioan, 94, wakes up to blimp that landed in yard

I would say that I somehow missed this story amongst the breathless tales of traffic accidents, drug deals gone wrong, and can’t-live-without health tips from our local evening news. Which is, come to think of it, exactly why I missed this story.

I just don’t watch the local news that much for all of the above reasons. We live near Columbus, which you may recall is the state capital of Ohio (unless you went to public school, in which case the answer is “C”). It’s also where “The” Ohio State University is located.

Being so close to a hub of such vitally important activity, with the potential to affect every citizen of our fair state, you’d think the local news would devote more attention to the goings-on within. If they did, we’d have known about the football team’s shenanigans and the coach’s willfull neglect of same long before the NCAA and Sports Illustrated twigged to it.

Oh, wait a minute. You thought I was talking about goings-on in the statehouse? Silly you. Based on the time devoted by our local press, you could be forgiven for thinking the Buckeyes are more important.

Which is another reason why I don’t pay much attention to the local talking heads. They’ve had their noses so far up OSU’s butt for so long, if Jim Tressel ever came to a sudden stop he’d need surgery to remove all of the overpriced haircuts from his lower intestine.

Of course, the bloom’s off that rose now but I still like the imagery.

Though I tend to ignore the local blowhards, I’m a current events junkie because so much (too much) of what happens inside of our legislatures has a direct impact on our personal lives.

Take Ohio’s Senate Bill 5. Please (ba-dum-dum).This was, is, and will continue to be the subject of heated debate. It’s our own version of Wisconsin’s collective-bargaining reform, which you may recall was the cause of some consternation in Madison last winter. SB5 has made things pretty ugly here in Ohio, though not nearly as intensely.

That’s probably because Ohio allows us to challenge legislation we don’t like through referendums, so the unions figured they were better off taking this to the ballot box instead of making fools of themselves on the statehouse grounds (which they did anyway, but again not as badly as the Wisconsin goons).

My opinion on the law is probably self-evident: I’m for it. Not because I’m a Scrooge who thinks teachers should make minimum wage, or firemen should be relegated to bucket brigades, or cops should be reduced to bullet-in-the-pocket Barney Fifes. Although listening to the unions, it appears that’s what they believe is in store for their membership if SB5 stands.

We’ve reached a point of diminishing return, accelerated by a bad economy. Those who serve the public can no longer expect benefits that aren’t enjoyed by the people who fund their paychecks. The money’s just not there anymore. Out here in the private sector, most of us have suffered three years of pay freezes, if not outright cuts, while our health insurance premiums go up year after year.

The unions may have to accept that the real benefit (besides a paycheck) that they’ll get from their jobs comes from personal satisfaction. I’ve always thought that was hugely important for teachers, cops, and firefighters; maybe not so much for Patty and Selma at the DMV.

There’s a great deal more to SB5, some of which I disagree with. But to expect the rest of us to fund benefit packages at a level we’ve never enjoyed is frankly obscene.

So what does any of this have to do with local news? Well, I just spent a couple hundred words describing a thorny issue that will affect everyone living in my state. My position and rationale should be quite clear to anyone who can read and understand English. Hopefully the underlying issues are equally clear.

Do you think the TV stations are talking about that? Think hard.

Ding! Time’s up.

The painfully small amount of attention they’ve devoted to this very big deal, in comparison to otherwise trivial events, is almost criminal. And when they do discuss it, it’s almost always about the “controversy” and little else. We all get why the unions are pissed. That’s extremely well understood. But a little more explanation of the actual issues, budget realities, and the consequences of our choices would be appreciated.

Keep it classy, San Diego…err, Columbus.

NOTE: This has been edited from a much larger, bloated, and meandering post. I’m no Hunter S. Thompson, thank goodness.

In the “What Do They Know That We Don’t?” Department…

DARPA is dropping a half-mil on feasibility studies for an interstellar spaceship.

Half a million is chump change in federal-budget terms, the stuff they pull out from under the seat cushions on Air Force One. So if they were spending, say, a half-trillion instead, that would make me wonder what might be out there and heading our way.

And while I think this is all kinds of cool, in the current environment it’s probably not the best use of public money.

Not that any considerations like that ever matter, of course.

UPDATE: It’s not paranoia if they really are out to get you! Here it is, proof of the massive Earth-destroying asteroid cover-up conspiracy thingy. Or not.

Back From Vacation

Sorry for the lengthy blogging pause, but we were on a long-awaited beach trip and I tried very hard to stay away from current events. Worked a little bit on the book, otherwise did a lot of reading, swimming, and eating. Nothing like SC seafood and BBQ!

Still need a couple days to get caught up and make this blog semi-relevant again. In the meantime, here’s a really cool pic of last weekend’s Perseid meteor shower from an unusual vantage point. Once again, the International Space Station (ISS) has the best seats in the house:

Downgrade This

As if on cue, Standard & Poor’s downgrades US debt. Yet another historic achievement for El Presidente. If you’re thinking about buying anything on credit, now would be a good time to lock in your rates.

It remains to be seen how far-reaching this will be. Supposedly Moody’s and the other big agencies aren’t budging, which I suppose would help. And while I think our problems are quite serious, this decision also smacks of politics.

Why’s that? Recall that S&P got burned pretty bad in the 2008 mortgage meltdown, by not downgrading clearly insolvent lenders until it was too late. Plus this quote from the linked story:

“S&P added that it expects that the upper income Bush-era tax cuts will continue, despite vows from Obama to end the breaks next year.

‘The majority of Republicans in Congress continue to resist any measure that would raise revenues,’ the firm said.”

So are they choosing sides? I wouldn’t put it past the Post to insert their own biases and flat-out make stuff up, but that would be pretty brazen. While there’s also more talk about cutting spending, you can bet that comment will be used to bludgeon the Republicans. I hope they’re prepared to fight back.

If they’re smart (always a question), they’ll use this fact to their advantage. We can’t soak the rich enough to balance our budget. Confiscate everything they make and it wouldn’t do it. And it would wreck the economy (how hard are you going to work if you know the Feds are going to take every dime?). That might make the social-justice crowd feel better, but the math is not on their side.

It also presumes that all government spending is somehow justified, and cannot be cut to the necessary degree. Therefore, we must fund it.

Sorry, I’m not buying it. And the way things are going, I may not be buying much of anything.

UPDATE: China weighs in. Among other things, our single biggest creditor demands “substantial cuts” to military spending. Surprise!

The Hollywood Economy

It’s like a movie set: looks impressive on the outside, until you peek behind the facade.

Right now, the facade ain’t looking too great either. Or my 401k, for that matter.

No sooner do I make a sweeping categorical statement about avoiding politics, that it once again becomes unavoidable.

Wall Street is not reacting to phony budget cuts, they’re reacting to the fact that these sorts of promises are never kept. And because they’re also good at math, they probably figured out the government-spending-as-compound-interest problem long before I stumbled onto it.

The Keynesian supports have finally been kicked out from under us, and we’re about to finish the reckoning that began in 2008. The fact that our betters did so much to postpone it will only make things worse. Too much of our economy was driven by debt, both Federal and individual. When you live beyond your means long enough, the inevitable withdrawals are painful.

In a sense, it’s a good thing that we have such a hard-left President. A great deal of our current problems have their origins in policies the left has pushed since the ’70s. After decades of quietly sabotaging the economy, it’s fitting that they should own it.

But enough of my blathering. Guys like Roger Kimball at PJ Media make me wonder why I even try blogging. An excerpt from his must-read piece:

“Alas, we threw caution to the winds and elected someone who resented this country, was suspicious of wealth, and whose reflexive commitment to left-wing nostrums would gravely damage the most productive economy the world has ever seen. Tens or hundreds of thousands of people will suffer because of our naïveté and Barack Obama’s malevolent stupidity.”

And finally, a timeless quote from Heinlein via Glenn Reynolds:

Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded — here and there, now and then — are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.

This is known as “bad luck.”

More “Perigee” Coming Up…

For those of you following Perigee, let me apologize for leaving you hanging for so long. As mentioned previously, a major revision is underway before it goes up for sale on Amazon. I’ve set a publishing deadline of Nov. 10th, for several reasons:

1. That’s the Marine Corps Birthday. Ooh-Rah.

2. My 25th class reunion at The Citadel is that weekend and I need something to brag about.

3. I really, really, ought to get the blasted thing up before the Christmas rush at Amazon and B&N.com. My family would also appreciate my undivided attention during the holidays. They’d appreciate royalties even more.

All that, plus a couple of prominent bloggers have asked for advance copies to review.

In the meantime, I’m still looking for a copy editor. If any of you are qualified in that regard and like what you’ve seen so far, send me an email. Ditto graphic artists…I’ve got a good idea of what I’d like to see for a cover but would prefer having a pro onboard for that.

New chapters are up, including the alternate version of Chapter 1. A lot of chapters were broken up and shortened, so most of the new content is in Ch. 5 through 7. I’m interested in seeing how crowdsourcing the draft like this works out, so don’t pull any punches. You guys are my editing team. If something doesn’t make sense or it reads clunky, let me know.

Enjoy!

P.S. The formatting in WordPress is kind of spotty. Paragraphs that were perfectly indented in Word are all over the place once they’re posted here.  And I’m not sure why the chapters are appearing out of order on the sidebar…