Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Soviets were free

There are an estimated 800,000 full-time law enforcement officers in the United States: 120,000 Federal and 620,000 State and local.

That breaks down to 1 Fed for every 2,500 citizens, and one cop for every 375 citizens. Contrast that with this article about the Stasi and Gestapo:

The Soviet Union's KGB employed about 480,000 full-time agents to oversee a nation of 280 million, which means there was one agent per 5,830 citizens. Using Wiesenthal's figures for the Nazi Gestapo, there was one officer for 2,000 people. The ratio for the Stasi was one secret policeman per 166 East Germans. 
(even though the math for the Soviets is incorrect)
We have ratios of police versus citizens that is more than that of the Soviet communists, and rivals that of  the Gestapo.

But we don't live in a police state. This is a free country, after all.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Just lucky, I guess

According to some douchebag named Tim Wise, I am the recipient of 12 to 13 years of institutionalized affirmative action as a result of my attending public school, and this is why I, as a member of the white establishment, am so fortunate.

When I graduated from high school, the school I graduated from was one of two in the entire county. Everyone from the east side went to one school, everyone from the west side of the county went to the other. We all attended the same classes, taught by the same teachers. I can't see how there is any difference.

After high school, I joined the military and did six years there. When I got out, I was broke, but willing to work. I tried making it for a couple of years as a business owner, but was soon nearly homeless. My family and I lived in the storeroom of my business, and we bathed in a 48 quart ice chest.

I took what little money I had and moved to Florida. When I got there, I took a job in residential construction that paid $7.50 an hour. Over the next 5 years, I worked at the airport repairing ground support equipment, at Disney repairing the electronic control systems on dancing chickens, at Sherwin Williams on paint manufacturing equipment, and at a stainless steel mill repairing stainless steel pipe manufacturing equipment. Each time I changed jobs, it was for more money. Over that 5 year period, I went from $7.50 an hour to $12 an hour. Then, Bill Clinton signed a the "most favored nation" treaty with China, and cheap steel flooded the market, putting my employer out of business.

I got tired of being laid off, and decided to take my volunteer firefighting occupation full time. I went to school, by working odd jobs during the day, and going to school at night. I graduated the fire academy and got hired. While I was in school, my wife of ten years and I got a divorce. I was so broke, I had to get a second job as a janitor, and then as a lifeguard to make ends meet.

Since then, I have earned 4 college degrees and I am getting ready to begin my masters degree. I did it without handouts, I did it without Pell grants, welfare, food stamps, or anything that I didn't work for myself.

But hey, none of that was due to hard work and perseverance. It was all luck and 'white privilege' that got me here.

Friday, September 23, 2011

A peek into police culture

I was recently required to go to a class on the incident management system. The class was comprised of about 60% police supervisors and 40% fire supervisors. The class gave me an opportunity for some insight into the way that cops (especially the supervisors) view the world.

The class presented the supervisors with a few scenarios, and challenged those supervisors to set up a command structure that would adequately manage the situation. Since this was a class attended mostly by cops and was being taught by cops, the scenarios and the conversations were mostly cop-centric. It was a learning experience, but perhaps not in the way that was intended.

The first scenario was that a child services worker was doing a well being check on a home, after receiving a tip that one of the children in the home was being sexually molested by the father. When she arrived at the home, she found that the father was home alone with 3 children, ages 9 through 14, and he was intoxicated. The social worker told the father that she was removing the children from the home, because the only adult was intoxicated. The father refused, an argument ensued, and the social worker was asked to leave. Social worker attempts to take the youngest child with her, and is shot in the stomach by the father. Socail worker staggers outside and 911 is called.

The cops said that this is an active shooter situation, and their primary objective is to enter the home as soon as they have three officers present, and "take out the bad guy." I am betting that they were not talking about shooting the social worker.

After this first scenario, we took our first break. The topic of discussion during the break was how the "new NRA law" was stupid and creating problems for police. One of the cops said that they tried to work with the NRA, but that the "gun nuts" were being uncooperative and would not give an inch. Another used an example (paraphrasing, my memory isn't perfect)
"There is this guy who has been "Baker Acted" several times, and has even fired shots at police officers. We were at his house, and he has guns. Now normally, I would just take the guns, and he would never see them again. Thanks to this new law, this guy keeps the guns. Now I am forced to risk leaving the guns there and getting sued when he shoots someone, or taking the guns, and getting sued by the NRA."
Third cop says: "The odds of being sued by the NRA are low. I'm still going to take them."

There are a number of false assumptions there, but it seems to me that if a person has shot at cops, wouldn't he be convicted of at least one felony and thus be prohibited from firearm possession?
If he was found to be a danger to himself or others after being Baker Acted, wouldn't a court have found him incompetent, and wouldn't he then be prohibited from owning firearms?
Why does a cop think that he has the power to confiscate private property, simply because he thinks he is the "only one" that is trained and competent to handle firearms?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Have your cake, and others' cake, too

One of the things that I constantly hear is how we as Americans should do "something" about a person's pet cause, whether that cause is feeding the homeless, foreign aid, bailouts, orphaned animals, disaster relief, or any number of other causes that are considered to be "worthy" for our nation to throw money at. I consistently feel that it is not a legitimate function of government to send public money to charities. That position often ends with me being called names like "mean", "heartless", or worse.

I want you to do a thought exercise: Think of some worthy cause that you think we, as a people, should spend money on. I will pick one: homelessness. Now ask yourself a few simple questions:
How much of your own money do you contribute to feed and house the homeless?
If you have a spare room or couch, how many times have you invited a homeless person to stay in your home?
If you are not willing to donate to the cause that you deem worthy, then how can you morally demand through the use of government force that others do so? If you are reading this, you have probably spent some of your own money on luxuries like internet service or a computer, instead of giving that money to the homeless. How heartless you are! How dare you spend money on frivolities when people are sleeping in cardboard boxes without a meal! You must be heartless and cruel, you greedy bastard. This makes you feel guilty that you buy expensive luxuries when there are so many worthy causes, doesn't it?

There must be a solution to this feeling of guilt that you feel. The solution is so simple! Why don't you just vote to make other people give THEIR money to worthy causes on your behalf? That way, you can still buy those expensive luxury items, and still assuage your guilt. The plan here is that you get the government to take other people's money away, and use THAT money to help your cause.

Of course there are as many worthy causes as there are voters, and what happens is that we eventually have more causes than we do money. At that point, the only way to handle things is to borrow the money. From China. That is a story for another day...

Monday, September 12, 2011

Deadbeat parents

The American court system jails thousands of parents every year for not paying child support. I read the article, and I have a couple of thoughts:

First, Article III Section 2 of the Constitution provides that crimes, except impeachment cases, must be tried before a jury, unless the defendant waivers his or her right. The court has managed to work around that by claiming that "contempt of court" cases are not crimes. Regardless, the Seventh Amendment states that in Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law. Our court simply seems to ignore the plain intent of the founders: that no one person have the power of a King, not even a judge. The jury was to be the check and balance on the court. That is no more.

Then there are the practical and moral problems. My first wife and I got divorced in 1999.Following the state law formula, the court ordered that I pay half of my take home pay to my ex wife, nominally for child support. At the time, I grossed $1000 every two weeks. After taxes, I was left with about $720 each payday. $348 in child support was taken from my check, and sent to the ex-wife, leaving me with $720 per month to live on. The rent on my apartment was $600 for a small one bedroom. I was soon homeless and without a car, moving from couch to couch at the homes of friends. I got a second job, picking up garbage after the Shamu show at Sea World. I got an apartment with three roommates. I bought a car at a "buy here, pay here." Somehow, I made it.

Except that the ex wife didn't have a job, meaning that the support was more for her than for the children. The children would come over for visitation wearing rags, so I would have to buy them new clothes. Then they would ask for money for field trips and school supplies. Their mother would tell them that they couldn't have it, and that I should pay it. Not wanting to deny them, I gave them the money.

My ex-wife was collecting more than $1400 a month in child support, and because she didn't have to claim it as income, was getting another $400 a month in food stamps. she also claimed to be making $9,000 a year babysitting children, thus qualifying for $300 a month in earned income credit and another $300 per month in welfare. That's right- she was making $2400 per month in child support and government checks, and babysitting the neighbor's kids for a total take home of $3100 per month, tax free. That is the equivalent of grossing over $40,000 a year. Meanwhile, I was living below the poverty level. It is easy to see why many men become "deadbeats." The child support system is fundamentally unfair, and there is no mechanism in place to ensure that the money actually supports the child.

Twelve years later, my kids are both grown up and have been living on their own for years. The punishing child support is a distant memory. The ex-wife got a job at WalMart as a cashier, worked there for a year, and injured her back. She is on Social Security disability and welfare now. As far as I know, other than that one year working at Wal Mart, she has never had a job her entire adult life.

But if I had failed to pay even some of that money, it is me who would have gone to jail, without an attorney, without a trial. Where is the real crime here? The only good thing that I can say I got out of all of those issues is that I no longer fear poverty, for I know what poverty is. I learned what it is like to work hard, and to work long hours just to eat. To this day, I still work two jobs, even though I no longer need the money.

Friday, September 9, 2011


How is high school athletics related to education? As a taxpayer, I resent the fact that I must pay extra taxes so that a student can participate in an extracurricular activity. In the central Florida area, every high school has a large stadium for football games, track facilities, top notch weight rooms, gymnastics, and many other pieces of expensive equipment that are designed to enable students to enjoy activities that are completely unrelated to what should be the goal of schools: education.

I know that there are many parents out there will claim that participation in sports is important, and that many life lessons are learned through sports. OK, then: Why is it necessary for the education of children to transport an entire football team, cheerleaders, coaching staff, and marching band of a public high school from Colorado to Florida at taxpayer expense?  Not only that, but the same night, another high school team flew from California to play in a Florida football game. The children couldn't play at one single school between here and Colorado? Here and California? Is this really a wise use of taxpayer money?

Florida doesn't have enough money to fund emergency services or repair roads, but we have enough to fly hundreds of children to Disney's backyard to play a game?