Monthly Archives: August 2014

Pax Americana

When I first started this blog, I was pretty much determined to stay away from political issues or the “heavy” issues of the day. There’s enough of that on line already. Unfortunately, I find myself straying away from light-hearted fare and thinking about more serious issues. This is not to say I’m moving into pondorous thinking, but I now reserve the right to write about more important issues as well. This is not a particularly big deal, inasmuch as very few people read this blog. For those of you who do, I am grateful.

Pax Americana (American Peace)

This rather grandiose Latin term speaks to much of the world I grew up in. From the beginning of the twentieth century, world peace has depended almost solely on one thing: The United States.

After the Civil War, the world was relatively peaceful until the outbreak of World War I. Beginning in 1914 the Allies (Britain, France and Russia) battled the “Central Powers” of Germany and Austria-Hungary. These enemies, along with others joining in the fray, battled each other in a nasty trench-warfare conflict until 1917, when The United States entered the war. The United States had remained neutral until German submarines began sinking American ships and Germany approached Mexico to be a military ally. This tipped the scale in the allies favor, ending the war in 1918.

The United States thus became a player on the international stage, and solidified this position during World War II with the defeat of Germany and Japan. Ending the war with the use of the first atomic bomb, The United States became the world’s Superpower.

In the years that followed, American political leaders were mostly concerned about the rise of “International Communism”, primarily the Soviet Union (the Chinese were in the equation too, nut not considered a major threat at the time). Certainly we ran up against them in the Korean War, but that was an anomaly. We were not yet ready to start throwing our weight or our nukes around. The Korean War was more a test of loyalties, seeing who would side with us against evil when the chips were down. We used the quaint rubric of the United Nations as a cover, and it pretty much showed that our real allies when the rubber met the road were few,  and their support was more cosmetic than real.

We maniacally worked to enhance our nuclear weapons, developing far bigger and sophisticated nuclear bombs and delivery systems. We were way out ahead in the game,  but thanks to some friendly spying by the Soviets, aided by the Rosenbergs and some others (look them up if you want), the ‘ol “Ruskies” soon reached a rough parity with us. The new acronym in this tit for tat development race became known as MAD, Mutually Assured Destruction. This meant if we shot ours and the Soviets shot theirs, we would both blow the crap out of each other and nothing would be left.

MAD

This Mexican standoff resulted in some pretty tense times, highlighted by the 1962 Cuban missle crisis, when the Ruskies blinked first.

This Superpower race continued until the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1980’s.  We then became the world’s only remaining superpower and the world’s cop, or at least the world’s interventionist, getting involved in various struggle around the globe.

A quick look on line and we see some of the places we got involved around the world in the past several decades:

The CIA was involved in the UNITA movement in Angola, the Solidarity movement in Poland, the Contra revolt in Nicaragua, and the Khemer NLF movement in Cambodia. We had troops involved in Lebanon, where 241 Marines were killed in a bombing in Beirut. We got involved in El Salvador, Grenada, and Panama. We bombed Libya.

We started the Gulf War in 1991, protecting Kuwait. We intervened in Somalia, and lost troops in the infamous Blackhawk Down event. We sent troop to Haiti, and bombers to Bosnia/Serbia. We fired missles into Afghanistan and the Sudan.

Since September 11, 2001, we have been involved in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya. All this not to mention drone attacks in Pakistan and Yemen, as well as an on-going drug war against the cartels in Colombia.

We are the world’s cop. We have been involved in global conflicts large and small for decades. The moral correctness and the effectiveness of these interventions may be debatable, but much of the world sees us as the one country who will get involved anywhere to right a perceived wrong. Additionally, we would defend our friends without reservation, jumping into any fray to protect them. This may not have brought peace to the world, but it maintained a stability. Local and/or regional issues stayed just that, the fires of warfare did not spread across the world. With the Big Cop on the beat, most belligerents took caution.

captamerica

 Now that may be changing.

We’re tired, we’re worn out, and we’ve been taken for granted. Our “allies” have sytematicly dismantled their own armed forces, reasoning that we would take care of them if they had a problem. They have become so used to living under the “umbrella” of the United States they see little reason to waste precious resources on defense. Let us spend the money.

We have approximatelty 1.4 million people in our active military, spending in excess of $625 billion per year, about 5% of our Gross Domestic Product. Britain has about 206,000 troops and spends about $63 billion or 2.3% of their GDP.  France; 222,000 troops, $31 billion, 2.3% GDP. Germany; 183,000 troops, $45 billion.

The list can go on and on. Our allies have happily let us do the heavy lifting as they reduced their armed forces. They knew we would protect them, so they had better uses for their money.

Now something has happened. We too, are cutting back, reducing our forces. Current proposals would reduce some of our armed forces to pre World War II levels, the lowest numbers of troops and equipment in over 70 years. Additionally, the current Administration has made it pretty clear we’re no longer the intervention type. We’re withdrawing from Afghanistan, we’ve mostly left Iraq, and our “footprint” on the world stage is diminishing. Don’t think our enemies have not noticed.

If the United States is no longer policing the world, what happens? If the teacher leaves the playground, what do the bullies do? Exactly.

And the bullies are starting to come out to play. Islamic terrorism is on the rise, most recently embodied in the so-called ISIS, which means something about an Islamic state, but who cares? These are full-blooded loonies sweeping across Syria and Iraq, chopping off heads of men, women, and children along the way. First called the “junior varsity” by our beloved President, these monsters in just a few short months have risen to the level of a serious threat to us, as noted just today by our Secretary of Defense.

isis

 

So now what? Do we go fight them in the Middle East, or ignore them unless they come to our door? Does Pax Americana still exist, or have we retired from the field? I don’t know the answer, nor how this will play out, but it seems playing the world’s cop is much easier to begin than to end.

 

The Constitution (a layman’s point of view) The Second Amendment

Continuing our series on the Constitution, we come to the Second Amendment, perhaps one of the most controversial today.

The Second Amendment: A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

These Amendments of the Bill of Rights are remarkably short. This one is only twenty-seven words. It does seem odd that such a short statement (a single sentence) could be so controversial, but it is.

The debate is, obviously, guns. Who can have them, who cannot, who says who can have what, etc.

Full disclosure, I am a gun owner. I used to hunt from time to time, but have not done so in many years.  I consider my guns as home protection. I am not in love with guns, nor do I fear them. They are tools for a purpose. I do not believe guns are inherently dangerous if used properly. A person who does not know how to use a power saw can cut their hand off. A person who does not know how to use a gun can harm themself or others.  Left alone, the power saw will sit on a bench for all time and harm nothing. A gun will do the same. They are inanimate objects, incapable of causing harm without human intervention. So let’s first dispense with the silly notion that guns kill. People kill. Guns and power saws do nothing on their own.

When I was growing up, people didn’t seem to think much about guns. Lots of people had them; many of the men in my neighborhood were hunters. I fired my first gun when I was twelve at Boy Scout summer camp. They taught us how to safely shoot .22 caliber rifles on a rifle range. It was fun.

scoutshoot

A little later, an uncle gave me a .22 to use. The scouts had a target range at a farm nearby, and we use to walk there, carrying our rifles and ammunition. No one ever saw that as strange. My first rifle looked something like this one:

22rifle
Keep in mind, if you will, I wan’t living in rural Kansas. This was suburban New Jersey, a dozen miles from Philadelphia.

My reason for this rather long background is to point out that as recently as forty years ago, guns were no big deal. No license required to purchase. You simply went into a gun store and bought any gun you wanted. The only license required was for hunting. You could own one gun or a hundred. Nobody cared. Today a person walking anywhere with a gun will bring out the SWAT team.

Looking back to the 1960’s is to make this point: lots of people owned guns, just as in 1775, when those folks living in Lexington and Concord Massachusetts became the first militia. These were essentially farmers and other residents who organized against the British. Since there was no “official” American goverment, there was no “official” militia. The first battle of the Revolutionary war was between British troops and average citizens.

So are these the “well regulated militia” referred to in the Constitution?It’s not absolutely clear. They were not sanctioned by the state, they were not created by the “official” government, the British. They were citizens who took up arms against the government.  I believe this is what the founders meant. Citizens taking up arms to protect themselves from the government, not the other way around.

Today, those who suggest the militia referred to in the Constitution is a state-organized unit, such as the National Guard have it exactly backward. The militia the founders meant was not of the government, but of the people!  State-sponsored military are not the same thing. I believe the founders knew that the only way to ensure lasting freedom was by the people themselves having equal power to the presiding government. No monarch, dictator, or facist ruler could take over the country as long as the citizens were armed.

There are those who say, well that was then, but this is now. The colonials were armed with only muskets. Today people have possession to “military-like” weapons. It begs the question to point out that the muskets back then were the same as those carried by the British Army. Under various laws since then, a citizen may not own a comparable weapon to the military.  Automatic weapons, for instance, may not be owned by civilians under current law. One other small thing that drives me insane: The media is constantly referring to guns as “semi-automatic”. This only means that one round is fired every time the trigger is squeezed. Every gun in civilian hands is semi-automatic. This is not a “special” type of gun, it is all guns that are not automatic. Those people make me nuts.

Technicalities aside, what are the real reasons that many want private gun ownership banned?

Crime: To be sure, there are more gun-related crimes in 2014 than there were in 1775, population growth notwithstanding. People  are murdered in this country every day with guns. Guns are used in robberies and all sorts of crimes. Criminals certainly have access to weapons. But because criminals use guns, is this a reason to deny the honest law abiding citizen the right to own a gun? Of course not.

According to the most recent numbers I could find from the Department of Justice, there were 414,562 guns “incidents” in 2011. This covers all incidents from accidental shootings, to crime with a gun, to murder. That same year, the population was about 310 million people. Doing some math, this indicates that the possibility of a citizen being involved in a gun “incident” that year was about .001 percent. Less than one tenth of one percent. So despite media claims of rampant crime, the United States is still pretty calm as far as gun-related crime goes.

To be sure, there are concentrations of crime, in cities, for example. There is also a high use of guns in certain types of crime, such as drug related crime. None of this, however, has a thing to do with regulating guns on average citizens. It is absolute nonsense to suggest that taking guns away from the public will reduce crime. It’s actually quite the opposite. Places with loose regulation regarding civilian gun ownership tend to have the lowest crime rates. Conversely places with the most onerous gun laws (Washington DC and Chicago for example), have the highest gun crime rates. Criminals can always get guns. Disarming honest citizens makes no sense whatsoever.

Goverment opression: I would argue there is a more serious reason that some want the public disarmed, much more serious than crime. And this goes all the way back to 1775, and those farmers standing in the field against the British troops. I believe the founders considered the possibility that the government could become repressive. After all, the reason for the revolution was to obtain freedom from the British who were opressing the American colonials.  Had Britain not behaved the way it did, it might be fair to say there would have been no revolution. I believe the founders wanted citizens to have the ability to rebel again if needed. They wanted the citizens to be armed to fight the government if it ever again became necessary.

Even as I write this, I am aware that discussing government opression in the United States sounds a little paranoid. Certainly in other places dictators rounded up guns to control the population, but this is America, nothing like that could ever happen here.

Really? Just a few short years ago I would have scoffed at such a notion. Today, I’m not so sure. We hear of the NSA spying on phone calls and electronic communication. More and more we see cameras mounted on street poles. There are drones. The notion of a “Big Brother” seems not so totally ridiculous any longer.

police camera

Government has grown exponentially in the last few decades, especially the Federal Government. Every agency, it seems, now excerts more and more control over the public. From the EPA and environmental regulations to the Department of Education dictating school lunches, government has become more intrusive into our lives. We seem to be living in a world where trust is diminishing rapidly. They don’t trust us, we don’t trust them.

Most recently, disturbances in Ferguson, Mo. bring us to this:

> on August 13, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri.

Outrage In Missouri Town After Police Shooting Of 18-Yr-Old Man

The militarism of police across the country is disturbing. Police are not an occupying army, nor should they dress like one. Allowing local police forces to take on a military aura is not good. This is what we should see:

adam

We are living in troubling times. Never in my life have I seen such uncertainty.

The Fermi Paradox

space

I’ve always been interested in space,  and I’ve written about it here on these pages. I get a sense of wonder just looking up to the night sky. I once owned a dinky 3 inch refractor telescope and my son and I would look at the stars. Unfortunately, light polution being what it is in my neck of the woods, there’s not much to see. But it’s out there….it’s really out there.

I read a few articles recently on something called the Fermi Paradox. It goes something like this:

When we look up into a sky filled with stars, all we’re really seeing is our closest neighboring stars. That’s all that are visible to the naked eye. We can see less than one percent of the stars in our own galaxy (the Milky Way)!

Now, lets try some numbers: In our galaxy alone, there are 100-400 billion stars! In the observable universe, there are over 100-400 billion galaxies! That means there are  500 quintillion( 500,000,000,000,000,000,000) stars in our observable universe.  Observable meaning those we can see with our best deep-space telescopes. There’s more beyond that, we just can’t see it.

Now it gets a little tricky, so bear with me.  If only one percent of these stars had earth-like planets, there would be over 100 billion-billion earth like planets.

As one article I read suggested, try it this way: There are 100 earth-like planets in the universe for every grain of sand on earth! Yeah that’s right. Every grain of sand (think of all the beaches), every grain=100 earth like planets!

earth

Go ahead, wrap your brain around that one. It’s really impossible to do. I can’t even imagine counting the grains of sand in one bucket.

So here’s where it gets interesting. If only one percent of those earth-like planets developed life, and if only one percent of that life ever evolved to what we would call intelligent life, there would be ten million intelligent civilizations in the universe!

If there are that many intelligent civilizations, where the hell are they? Why aren’t they visiting us? Or have they?  Here’s more of the paradox:

scully

If there are other intelligent beings out there, and if they could come to visit us, they would be far more advanced then we are. Not just a little more but vastly more. Any beings capable of interstellar travel are not just thousands of years ahead of us, but maybe millions of years. There are a number of different scenarios about them:

1. They may have been here and gone: Advanced civilizations could be millions of years ahead of us and may have stopped by earth thousands of years ago, found nothing interesting, and went on their way. There’s lots of universe to explore.

2. There are galactic colonies, but they are so far away we have no idea that they exist.

3. Advanced civilizations are aware of us, but we are of no more interest to them than insects.

4. There’s lots of activity out there, but our technology is too primative to understand it.

5. There is no one out there more advanced than us.

6. They are there, but the government is covering it up.

The notions and theories go on and on, but you get the idea. We’re not going to get into flying saucers and so forth here (maybe some other time). My real reason for writing this was that I’m pretty flabergasted at the size of the universe and can’t help but wonder what it’s all about. We are soooo miniscule, so nothing by comparison. And yet we often think we know it all.

If you want to learn more about this, there’s plenty online. By the way, Enrico Fermi, the Italian physicist, came up with this originally, around 1950.

Maybe when we’re feeling smug and superior, we might be well served to take a look out there, and get some perspective.

I was going to skip the flying saucer part, but here’s a good one:

 

 truth

 

The History of Rock and Roll, According to Me

I grew up with rock and roll. I was there at the beginning.

On of my earliest memories was a story my father told when he came home from work one day. He worked as a sheet metal fabricator and his shop worked on installing a new stage set-up for a local bar. While they were working, a new group was rehearsing. This was around 1955, and I was about ten years old. The group was called Bill Haley and the Comets:

Years later I would learn an older cousin of mine played bass guitar with the group, but quit the band before they became famous — big mistake.

Rock Around the Clock,was a smash hit, and was later used as the theme song for the nostalgic TV Show Happy Days. Of course that was some time after Bill Haley and his Comets were a struggling band from Chester, PA playing at the Crown Point Inn, in Thorofare NJ.

I had an aunt who lived in Philadelphia. Just up the street from her, a bunch of local kids formed a singing group. They called themselves Danny and the Juniors:

Cleveland has the Rock and Roll museum, and fancies itself as the home of rock and roll. This, of course, is not true. The place where rock and roll really took root and grew was Philadelphia.

We all listened to the radio back then (See my post on AM radio), but the new medium was television. And nothing dominated local TV in the Philadelphia area for teens more than  Bandstand.

bandstand

Most folks associate Bandstand with Dick Clark, but in fact Bandstand was the most popular show in Philly for some time before Dick Clark arrived on the scene. In fact it was not originally American Bandstand, but simply Bandstand.

Bandstand was more than a TV dance show for us. It was local. We knew kids who went to the show. We saw them on TV, we knew their names. Bandstand in the early days was personal for us.

When Bandstand went national in 1957, Paul Anka became the first performer to make his national debut on the show. Simon and Garfunkel appeared on the show under the name Tom and Jerry. By 1958 the show was ABC’s top-rated daytime program. Over the years, of course, the show changed and eventually moved to Los Angeles. But in the early days, at its roots, were the Philly stars who made rock and roll.

Fabian, Bobby Rydell, Frankie Avalon

Three Philly locals, all getting their start on Bandstand:

Dances, dances, dances: Bandstand may have started it, I’m not sure, but in the Philadelphia/South Jersey area in the 50’s and 60’s, dances were everywhere. Dozens of local high schools held dances every week and Philly DJ’s would travel to places like Mepri Hall in Mount Ephraim to spin records to a packed house.

Sometimes we’d travel across the river. Over in Bristol PA, the local fire house held a weekly dance. The wooden floors resounded with the pounding of the kid’s shoes, and a new group with a new song was born; The Dovells:

The next person from Philadelphia created a whole new dance:

A brief segue on Chubby Checker: One Saturday at my drum and bugle corps practice, one of the kids noticed a line of limousines parked at the church accross the street. Being curious, we all went out for a look. It was a wedding; Chubby Checker’s wedding. We watched him going in and coming out. We thought it was pretty cool.

Rock and Roll from Philly? How about Lee Andrews and the Hearts (Long Lonely Nights),Patti Labelle and the Bluebelles (I Sold My Heart to the Junkman), Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes (If You Don’t Know Me by Now), The Orlons (South Street),James Darren (Goodbye Cruel World)?

Then there were The Delfonics (La-La Means I Love You), The Stylistics (You Make Me Feel Brand New),  and The Three Degrees (When Will I See You Again).

These artists set the standard for others who followed including Hall & Oates, Teddy Pendergass, and Boyz II Men.

And finally Live Aid. It was no accident that the largest rock concert in history took place in Philadelphia in 1985. And it was also no accident that one of the final acts of the fourteen hour show was the Philadelphia Diva, Patti Labelle:

So that’s it. Rock and Roll began in Philadelphia. It was the heart and soul of the music, the roots. And I was there at the beginning.

Just Listen

Day is done, gone the sun,
From the lake, from the hills, from the sky;
All is well, safely rest, God is nigh.

Fading light, dims the sight,
And a star gems the sky, gleaming bright.
From afar, drawing nigh, falls the night.

Thanks and praise, for our days,
‘Neath the sun, ‘neath the stars, neath the sky;
As we go, this we know, God is nigh.

Sun has set, shadows come,
Time has fled, Scouts must go to their beds
Always true to the promise that they made.

While the light fades from sight,
And the stars gleaming rays softly send,
To thy hands we our souls, Lord, commend.

The Constitution: (A layman’s point of view) The First Amendment

When I was in high school, we briefly studied the Constitution in Civics class, and then promptly forgot all about it. I lived much of my life since then paying little attention to my “rights”. Nothing seemed to get in the way of me doing pretty much whatever I wanted, legally.

Today, however, things have changed. Every day it seems I hear some battle over the Constitution, especially the Bill of Rights. Infringement of our “Rights” seems to be around every corner. Many people seem to be afraid the government is on the verge of disolving the Constitution and turning us into a dictatorship of some sort. Whether of not that is true, and whether or not I agree is something for another post. In this post I’d simply like to look at these first ten amendments and discuss my understanding of them.

According to Monpelier.com, the home site of James Madison, the author of the Bill of Rights,

“The ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution that we know as the Bill of Rights were not included in the original U.S. Constitution, but were passed by Congress and ratified by the states in 1791. Though once confident that the Constitution did not give the federal government any powers that could endanger individual rights (thus rendering a bill of rights unnecessary) and even worried that the listing of individual rights could be potentially dangerous to the people (if they were to be interpreted as the only rights of the people), James Madison eventually recognized that many people were unwilling to approve the Constitution unless such a bill of rights was added. Thanks to Madison’s influence, the U.S. Bill of Rights now affirms individual rights, including freedom of religion, freedom of the press, the right to bear arms, security against unreasonable search and seizure, and the right to trial by jury.”

So the Bill of Rights were essentially an afterthought, written only when it became clear that they were necessary for the public’s acceptance of the Constitution. Having just fought a revolution, those folks took their freedoms seriously.

The First Amendment: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Pretty simple, right? Only forty-five words. But what does it say?

Let’s take the second part first – Freedom of Speech. My view is that it gives me the right to say pretty much anything, anywhere I want. If I want to say “Nixon is an asshole”, or “Harry Truman was a toad”, I can say that without any worry. Since both were public figures and both are dead, I also don’t have to worry about either one suing me for libel or slander (more on that later). I can stand in my front yard or on a public street and protest or complain about anything I like.  If I have a group of like-minded people, we can assemble peacefully on a street corner or in front of the White House and air our grievances, no matter what they are.  There is no such thing as a “free speech zone”, a concept that arose when people tried to corral protestors. I can say what I want, when I want, and where I want in public, with a few limitations:

I cannot, for instance, falsely yell “fire” in a movie theater, because it could cause a panic and endanger people. Notice I used the word falsely. Obviously if there were really a fire, it would be a good idea to call out. Other obvious actions, such as calling in a bomb threat, are not generally considered “free speech”. But again, that’s pretty obvious, and not largely questioned.  All in all, most everything in speech or writing is protected by this Amendment, including, sad to say, the right to burn the American Flag as a form of protest. As much as I dispise this, it gets dicey when we begin to parse what is free speech and what is not.

Hate Speech 

Which brings me to the next point, hate speech: We seem to be living in Brave New World these days when all kinds of derogatory speech can be considered “hate speech”. If I call someone a name that is offensive by race, sexual orientation, etc, I can be accused of hate speech. It may be crude, it may be offensive, it may be nasty. But is it protected under the Constitution?

So far, at least, the courts have generally ruled that “hate speech” in itself is not illegal. That doesn’t mean, however, if I call you a name, you can’t poke me in the nose. But it does mean I can legally say it. This is not a small distinction today. Many colleges, for example, have set up “speech codes” which confer punishment for speaking this way. A private college, of course, can do as it chooses within the confines of its property. A public college, not so much. Again, the courts have often ruled against such rules on public-owned campuses. And that is a good thing. It seems to me that many folks have gotten far too sensitive, and have come up with the notion they can create laws to control the behaviors of others. If you or I are hurt in some material way by speech or writing, we have civil recourse. We can sue for slander or libel if we prove we’ve been harmed by another’s speech. That’s plenty of protection.

Many countries around the world pose strict imposition on freedom of speech. We are the exception. When a nation can curtail the speech of its citizens, it can curtail other things as well. Our freedom of speech is not small change.

speech

 Freedom of religion: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…

Wow, is this one misunderstood. In a nutshell, it means the government will mind its own business when it comes to religion. Many of the first settlers here came to escape some form of religious persecution. Clearly, this becomes a most important part of our laws.

Religion is protected in the United States. You can worship any way you choose without fear of the government. You can pick your church, or indeed start your own if you wish.  You can be as religious or non-religious as you choose: Freedom.

On the flip side, the government may not create a religion. Unlike other countries, there is no “official” or state-sponsored religion here, and thank God for that.

Separation of Church and State

Read the Amendment. Read it again. Notice there is nothing about said separation. It is not in the First Amendment nor anywhere else in the Constitution. It does not appear.

This notion, which far too many people believe is a law, came from a letter by Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury (CT) Baptist Association in 1802. Here’s what he said:

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church and State.

Jefferson was explaining to the Baptists that the First Amendment prevented the government from creating a religion, thus “building a wall of separation between Church and State”. He was not suggesting that religion had no place in government. Quite the contrary, religion permeated government at all levels from public prayer to national mottos (In God We Trust).

Today this “separation” nonsense gets bounced around like a ping pong ball. I call it nonsense because it amounts to some people getting “offended” by a prayer at a high school graduation, or the Ten Commandments posted at a city hall. Nonsense. Spineless government officials have backed away from challenges on this front for years now, allowing an erronious notion to become a “law” by default.

I’ve gotten more wordy that I planned. We need to understand our freedoms. We need to protect them. No one can ever be permitted to take them away from us, no matter what.

 speech2

 

Places I’d like to see: Lord Howe Island

I like to play around with Google Earth. Geography has always fascinated me, and I enjoy “exploring” with Google Earth.

During one of my “explorations” about a year or two ago, I came across a small island off Australia: Lord Howe Island.

Located about 370 miles east of Austalia, it is considered by some to be the most beautiful island in the Pacific. It is a very small island, only about six miles long and one mile wide at its widest point. There is a local population of less than 400, and no more than 400 tourists are permitted on the island at any one time.

Twelve miles southeast of Lord Howe Island lies one of the most distinct land masses in the world: Ball’s Pyramid. It is the highest volcanic stack in the world, jutting 1844 feet into the air. It is all that remains of a massive volcano formed over seven million years ago.

I’ve been to several islands in the Caribbean, but never to one in the Pacific. I may have developed my fascination for Pacific islands from the movies:

Most people live on a lonely island, lost in the middle of a foggy sea… most people long for another island, one where they know they would like to be….

Sooooo…I’ll never get to Bali Hai, and I’ll never get to Lord Howe Island. But it’s nice to think about from time to time.