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Guns Or No Guns

October 22, 2010 20 comments

Guns or No Guns

“When a government fears the constituency, its first action is to disarm them.  When faced with this action, the constituency’s duty is to arm itself even further.”

This has probably the most pointless discussion people can have.  The issue is so emotional that no one is going to be moved from their beliefs by anything anyone else says.

The main thing that I have noticed is that the people who are known to me to be the most knowledgeable on the subject have been very quiet.  I suspect that is because, if they are carrying weapons, they do not wish to advertise the fact.  If they are not, they don’t need to shout about that, either.

With all the considerable rhetoric I’ve seen, I have yet to read one simple truth.  Owning a firearm is a responsibility that demands you become, and stay, proficient.  To do this requires more time, effort, and money than most people, even gun owners, are willing to invest.  Even then, no amount of proficiency will prepare you to take a life when face-to-face with the situation.  Winning target matches is not preparation for defending your life.  Paper targets and clay pigeons do not shoot back.

I spent many years as a martial arts instructor and saw several instances where tournament champions were assaulted and, in one case killed, by people not fit to shine their shoes.  Why?  Perhaps on that day and time, the assailant was luckier.  More likely, because the martial artist was not mentally prepared to take the instant and brutal action necessary to survive.  That decision has to be made long before the need arises and most people never give it serious consideration.

If you think you need a firearm for protection, then be prepared to invest what it takes to be ready if you need it.  Also be prepared for the financial, legal, and emotional burden of using it.  In fact, these can apply even if you never use it.  If you’re not ready for that, do not have a firearm no matter where you stand on the question.

Both pro and anti-gun people make good arguments for their respective sides.  In the end, the decision has to be a personal one and no one can or should make it for you, either way.  The issue of defending yourself and your family is something each of us has to consider whether we ever leave our home or not.  Whether you use a firearm, flare gun, or baseball bat, you must still be prepared to perform a harsh and often fatal act to another human being.  It’s a lot more difficult than you can imagine.  It isn’t like movies, where you waste the bad guy and move on without another thought.

Ask any police officer who’s been there, you think about it for a long time afterward.  Anyone that says you don’t either doesn’t know anything about the subject or is a very sorry excuse for a human being.

As far as gun ownership, perhaps it too easy for unqualified people to own a firearm? After all, you have to have a license and proof of at least minimal competency to drive a car, fly a plane, and in some areas, operate a boat.  Why shouldn’t you have to show that you understand the care and maintenance of firearms and safety issues involved and are able to take all the correct actions.  This would include an understanding of self-defense ordinances in your area as well as any laws concerning when and where you may or may not be armed.

Then you would be issued a license to own a firearm.  Having the license would not be evidence that you did own a gun, but were qualified to do so.  This would be the same as having a driver’s or pilot’s license would not prove you owned a car or plane, but that you could if you chose.

Naturally, none of this would keep guns away from criminals, no law can do that.  Perhaps that’s one of the reasons they are criminals?  Here in Brazil, for example, it is almost impossible for private citizens to legally possess a firearm.  Yet, criminals frequently have more firepower than the police.  In a country where private guns are very rare, criminals seem to be able to get all they want.  That seems to be the case in most countries with restrictive gun laws.  So much for “gun control.”

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A Flat Tax

August 4, 2010 19 comments

A Flat-Rate Tax

I am in favor of a flat-rate system of taxation, a system that applies fairly and equally to all, regardless of income.  I include corporations and churches in this system as, in some aspects, they are legally regarded as individuals.

The tax rate might be as low as ten or fifteen percent, whatever is needed to finance the government.  There would be no deductions, exemptions, or exceptions.  This also means no tax credits for any reason.  By removing even the possibility of loopholes, all persons would pay their fair share.  Who would mind paying if they knew everyone else was paying, too?

There are groups who oppose such a plan.  Obviously, anyone making money from the present tax system is opposed to change.  The Internal Revenue Service, for example, could be almost eliminated.  Tax returns would be needed only for the self-employed and those having income other than wages and salary, such as tips or gambling income.  All others might send in a simple affidavit stating that they had no unreported income.  The IRS would have little to do, and could be reduced to a fraction of its present size and budget.

Employers would deduct and pay the flat-rate tax as they now do under the present system.  Because the percentage would be the same for everyone, it would be far simpler to do.  (No W-2 forms for openers).

High-income persons with tax shelters form another group opposed to tax reform.  Many of these people and corporations pay little or no tax year after year.  Because this group finances many political campaigns, they exert influence far out of proportion to their numbers.  Because many politicians are in this category, it is unlikely that they will bite the hands that feed them, or vote away their own favored tax situation.  With these groups and the IRS opposed to any real changes in the tax structure, I see little hope of reform, but it is nice to dream.

Land of the Free?

August 3, 2010 5 comments

Land of the Free?

America is not the land of the free and never was.  This is not limited to the USA, of course, it’s true of most places at most times.  It is only free if you profess to believe the “right” things, practice the “right” religion, support the “right” causes, and say the things that “everyone knows” are correct.  Now, it must be “politically correct,” too.

Dissent has always been not only discouraged, but punished, socially, legally, and often physically.  How many “hippies” of the 60’s were disowned, ostracized, and often physically abused for their views and lifestyle?  Is it any different today?  Isn’t “gay bashing” still practiced?  How about right of choice?  Is that also punished?  Even to the point of murder?

Anyone that opposed the Iraq War 2 was accused of being unpatriotic, unchristian, and possibly treasonous.  The fact that not one weapon of mass destruction has been found in Iraq and that it is becoming very apparent that the government, starting with the President and Secretary of State misstated or even lied about the intelligence excuses for the war has not lifted the mantle of hate aimed at these few voices of reason.  Some “friends” have even told me that, if I can’t say what they want to hear and stop criticizing the government to stop communicating at all.  I may have lost some acquaintances, but I have kept my integrity.

It doesn’t stop with false patriotism, it continues into every area of life; especially when you intrude upon religion.  Madelyn Murray O’Hare may have won a few battles, but at the cost of eternal hatred and enmity from so-called “Christians.”  The hate and threat-filled mail she received reveals the true level of “Christian love and tolerance” that exists in the USA.

Anyone that dares to express dissatisfaction with blue laws and protests anyone attempting to enact their personal religious beliefs into law is reviled and attacked, often physically.  Think about the number of bombings of abortion clinics.  Are these acts of Christian charity?  Whether anyone likes it or not, the abortion issue is a religious one.  Has any other argument been offered against it?  If you don’t believe in abortion, don’t have one.  If you have a logical, provable, argument against it, state it clearly and reasonably.  Attempting to enforce your opinion with violence or making it a law with its implied threat of “legal” violence is morally wrong and contrary to the standards of a free country.

If America were truly free, anyone could express any opinion and live any way they chose without running the risk of social, financial, or physical danger.  This situation does not exist today and never will because there are two universal truths that forbid it.

The first is:  A person’s most precious possessions are his illusions.  People will sacrifice their homes, money, possessions, even their children as long as they can maintain their illusions of religion and what’s “right” and wrong”.  If you doubt this, think of parents watching their children go off to fight and die in a war because they refuse to surrender the illusion that “It’s a just war against a godless heathen.”  They cannot accept that it is to ensure the profits of oil companies and presidential pals.  They do this because very few are cognizant of a second truth.  Beliefs, no matter how sincerely held, do not alter facts.

One of the things I’ve learned is that most of our beliefs and attitudes are really an accident of birth.  If you had been born in another place, you might just as sincerely believe in Hinduism, Confucianism, Islam, or some other religion and be convinced that your country was always right and that America was the “Great Satan.”  You would be just as wrong.

America free?  Think about these.  No-warrant wiretaps, indefinite detention of citizens without charges, no-knock entries.  Search and seizure without warrants, rendition of prisoners, torture renamed as “intensive interrogation”, stop and frisk without probable cause, confiscation or destruction of cameras used to record illegal police actions, mounting cases of police brutality and even executions by police that are never investigated, much less punished, and finally, “managed news.”  Does this sound like a free country?

Do I expect to suffer for these opinions?  Most certainly I do.  There is no doubt there will be  hate mail and death threats (the religious reich is especially fond of those) but also financial, social, and personal loss.  But I still have my integrity.  That’s more than most.

 

Term Limits

August 3, 2010 18 comments

Term Limits

This was a Guest Editorial for the Arizona Republic, October 1990.  It seems more true today than it did then.
“Those who trade liberty for security will soon have neither.”– Benjamin Franklin
“When a government fears the constituency, its first action is to disarm them. When faced with this action, the constituency’s duty is to arm itself even further.” — James E. Smith
“Governments need enemies to justify their existence.” — Edward Abbey
With the fall of the Soviet Union, the American Government needs a visible enemy. It seems to have chosen the American people to fill this role. When the government declares war on your rights it’s always “For your own good.” In reality, it’s only to increase that government’s power and to perpetuate itself in an increasingly larger form.
It’s time to make some fundamental changes in the American system if we are to preserve our traditional liberties. The founding fathers never intended that anyone would hold a public office for a lifetime. Today, we see politicians whose only purpose is to be re-elected. Everything they do, all the deals, compromises, and voting is to that end. If they were only permitted to serve one term, none of this could happen. In fact, a person should only be permitted one elected position in a lifetime. with a maximum term of six years. We could go even further and allow no one to work for any government in any capacity for more than six years. The military could be exempt from this restriction, as this is the one area where experience might be useful. Is there any other government job that the average individual cannot master in six months to a year?  Who is truly satisfied with a government “service”?  Is anyone happy with the Social Security Administration, the TSA (Terminally Stupid Association) or  Homeland Security?  (Hopelessly Silly)
Many would say that this plan would throw out the good with the bad. What good? Does anyone know of an elected, appointed, or hired government employee that couldn’t be easily replaced? After six years, they are no longer part of the solution but have become the problem. They need to get back into the work force and find a real job. If they knew they were going to have to rejoin the real world and live with the results of their actions, it might influence some of the decisions being made in government. The first monetary savings would be the elimination of the incredible retirement package they have voted themselves.
Who would serve under those conditions? Most Americans would do so. For some positions, it might be necessary to have a mandatory period of national service; not a bad idea in itself. Draftees could serve as lower-level public servants for two years, then be free to pursue their careers.
Private industries or groups could better provide many government “services” anyway. Two prime examples are the Tennessee Valley Authority and fire departments. The TVA is subsidized by taxpayers all over the country so that select consumers may enjoy electric rates far below the national average. The entire system could be sold to private power companies for billions of dollars. Resulting in a handy profit for the government and some relief for the taxpayer. The TVA customers have to become accustomed to the real world of energy costs where the rest of us have lived for decades.
Those who have fire protection from Rural Metro know that their service far exceeds what is usually available from government-run fire companies and at a surprisingly low cost. Local governments could vend fire protection to private companies. Firefighters deserve to be properly paid and the open marketplace is the only way to ensure this.
Most readers can think of many instances where a government “service” competes with private business. Vending these out or simply getting out of the business would help both the government and the commercial enterprises. The government would gain tax revenue while cutting expenses and the business would prosper. Taxpayers would receive better service at lower costs. This is a “win-win-win” solution.

James E. Smith

Income Redistribution

October 8, 2009 2 comments

Some people are complaining that the current administration is bent upon “Income Redistribution”.  This is amazingly ignorant.  All government consists of income redistribution.  What is social security, mail service, air traffic control, libraries, medicare, welfare, police and fire protection, and any other government service if not redistributing income?  Yes, it’s usually not done evenly or fairly but how many want to do without these things?  Should people who never fly pay for the ATC or, for that matter, the TSA? (Terminally Stupid Administration)

There are libertarians that can make good arguments for privatization of fire, police, and most government programs.  Privatization will certainly result in for-profit companies providing these services much as health care is today.  But then, what happens to those who cannot afford them?  Should your house burn down because your neighbor cannot or will not pay for fire protection?  Should your neighborhood be overrun with crime because others do not have police protection?  Should your family be exposed to diseases because others do not have proper health care?

What we are hearing is just more right wing-nut posturing and scare tactics.  What’s most disgusting to me is how many people will nod their heads sagely and say “Yes, that’s right,” without giving it one second of thought or even questioning, “Can this be correct?”

Albert Einstein was right when he said, “The two most common elements in the universe are hydrogen and human stupidity.”