Saturday, 16 May 2009

What is an American?

It's a great piece of writing....by Pete Ferrara who was an associate professor of law at George Mason University School of Law back on 25 September 2001. I read it twice and finally thought that I better keep this piece of wisdom.

You probably missed it in the rush of news last week, but there was actually a report that someone in Pakistan had published in a newspaper there an offer of a reward to anyone who killed an American, any American.

So I just thought I would write to let them know what an American is, so they would know when they found one.

An American is English…or French, or Italian, Irish, German, Spanish, Polish, Russian or Greek. An American may also be African, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Australian, Iranian, Asian, or Arab, or Pakistani, or Afghan.

An American is Christian, or he could be Jewish, or Buddhist, or Muslim. In fact, there are more Muslims in America than in Afghanistan. The only difference is that in America they are free to worship as each of them choose.

An American is also free to believe in no religion. For that he will answer only to God, not to the government, or to armed thugs claiming to speak for the government and for God.

An American is from the most prosperous land in the history of the world. The root of that prosperity can be found in the Declaration of Independence, which recognizes the God-given right of each man and woman to the pursuit of happiness.

An American is generous. Americans have helped out just about every other nation in the world in their time of need. When Afghanistan was overrun by the Soviet army 20 years ago, Americans came with arms and supplies to enable the people to win back their country. As of the morning of September 11, Americans had given more than any other nation to the poor in Afghanistan.

An American does not have to obey the mad ravings of ignorant, ungodly cruel, old men. American men will not be fooled into giving up their lives to kill innocent people, so that these foolish old men may hold on to power. American women are free to show their beautiful faces to the world, as each of them choose.

An American is free to criticize his government's officials when they are wrong, in his or her own opinion. Then he is free to replace them, by majority vote.

Americans welcome people from all lands, all cultures, all religions, because they are not afraid. They are not afraid that their history, their religion, their beliefs, will be overrun, or forgotten. That is because they know they are free to hold to their religion, their beliefs, their history, as each of them choose.

And just as Americans welcome all, they enjoy the best that everyone has to bring, from all over the world. The best science, the best technology, the best products, the best books, the best music, the best food, the best athletes.

Americans welcome the best, but they also welcome the least. The nation symbol of America welcomes your tired and your poor, the wretched refuse of your teeming shores, the homeless, tempest tossed.

These in fact are the people who built America. Many of them were working in the twin towers on the morning of September 11, earning a better life for their families.

So you can try to kill an American if you must. Hitler did. So did General Tojo and Stalin and Mao Tse-Tung, and every bloodthirsty tyrant in the history of the world.

But in doing so you would just be killing yourself. Because Americans are not a particular people from a particular place. They are the embodiment of the human spirit of freedom. Everyone who holds to that spirit, everywhere, is an American.

So look around you. You may find more Americans in your land than you thought were there. One day they will rise up and overthrow the old, ignorant, tired tyrants that trouble too many lands. Then those lands too will join the community of free and prosperous nations.

And America will welcome them.

Salary and Pilots

For years....I thought Pilots made good salaries. I always believed that. Even the local airline folks....I always felt that they pulled in at least $50k a year.

This week, I was kinda shocked. The co-pilot for the Continental Flight 3407 flight which crashed in Buffalo recently.....made a $16,200 at regional carrier Colgan Air. They even admitted at one point....she was working at a coffee shop part-time...to augment her indecent salary.

When I read over the entire report...the experience level and the salary...I sat there wondering....so who makes all this profit? I could actually haul logs for some guy in Bama, working fifty hours a week....and probably make $20k a year. I could haul hogs for butchers....across three state lines....up to sixty hours a week...and make $38k a year. I could change oil at a Jiffy Lube for 45 hours a week and make $24k a year.

Something here doesn't make sense. Me traveling on a 3rd rate airline now? Fat chance.

My Commencement Speech

This is the season of commencement speeches. I will admit...though with three associate degrees and two bachelor degrees....I've never been to a graduation ceremony except high school. Being in the military and getting credits after I left a base....kinda left me in left field. So I never got to hear a real speech. I have sat and watched a couple of speeches via the internet that Bush, Clinton and now Obama have given. I've come to the conclusion that I could probably write a pretty damn good commencement speech...short naturally....which might be appreciated. So I sat and wrote 'my' speech....which I would give....although likely never to happen.

Today, one world ends and one world begins. Whatever you learned....probably has little to less value than you'd like to think. This is the sad story of college and what people think.

There should be wisdom dished out you. There should have been great moments of brilliance that captivated your mind and made you think for a few brief moments. Its kinda like practicing for something but not knowing what that something really is.

You should have learned selflessness....but it's doubtful you caught that little moment.

You should have learned honesty and value....but it's doubtful that the university got around to that lesson.

You should have learned courage....but that wasn't exactly a class that you could get graded in.

You should have learned respect....but the professor keyed in on disrespect and you got graded for what you wrote on that topic.

You should have learned teamwork...but there isn't a single class to teach that unless you counted that volleyball class that you pretended to attend but never did.

You should have learned eye-to-eye contact...but there's not a single professor in the joint who wants to teach something like that.

You should have learned compassion but the one hour that they did offer on the topic...you were mostly wasted from a good evening of partying.

You should have learned forgiveness....but that was during homecoming week and you were mostly hanging out with the drunks in your dorm.

You should have learned tolerance and calmness...but the leadership class mostly dealt with intolerance and reactionary skills.

You should have learned a purpose in life....but the professor was a crazy guy who kept referring to all the bad things that occur to you in life.

So frankly, you are standing here with a polished scorecard and the university folks kindly thank you and your folks for the $38,000 that you helped to dump into the school and the other $44,000 that you pumped into the local economy around the school, and the $8,000 that you gave to the beer and alcohol companies of the local area. Oh, and lets not forget the $5,000 that you gave for sales taxes, gas taxes and alcohol taxes over the past four years.

So in this vast wasteland of knowledge...let me give one single bit of knowledge that you might find of value one day. Its a quote from Shakespeare.

There is a tide in the affairs of men, which, taken at the flood, leads onto fortune; Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shadows, and in miseries.
As you stand there waiting on something to happen...and it happens...don't just stand there and let the opportunity go. If you seize the moment...ever how difficult and unfair the chance might be....it will lead onto other opportunities. If you continue to sit there....in the shadows....you will simply count up your miseries in years to come and lust for a dream that will never come.

The Season Ends

There are only three shows on TV that matter to me anymore. This week....the season came to a conclusion with two of them....MD House and Lost.

I came to enjoy the House ending but it took a while for the end to sink in. The key feature of this great writing....is that imagination can run wild and make you think alot of things. It was five-star writing, at its best.

In the case of Lost....they really tossed you down the pit and answered a huge question or two....but then tossed another dozen questions on top of the fire. Lost has the ability to keep you addicted and going back to an episode three years ago....to consider the implications of what was done then and how it compares now.

The amusing thing is that twenty years ago.....you had nice tidy show that kept you interested for an hour, then wrapped up, and a week later....you forgot the entire concept of the script. From the Fall Guy, I can recall three characters from the show, but can't remember a single episode. Same deal with Falcon Crest and Simon & Simon. Would I buy any of the DVD's today from these shows? No.

There are huge expectations now with successful shows. They have to keep people tied into them.....buying the DVDs and asking question after question about the characters.

So I'm stuck now....for least four months.....waiting for the next season.....and waiting for the DVD arrival of Dexter, Season Three.

A Green, Wet, and Damaged House

So for those of you from Red Bay....who aren't familiar with this concept....if you live in a house up north...way up...where Yankees usually hang out...it's damn cold in the winter.

Typically....folks up that far in the semi-Arctic circle region...are fairly smart. But in a special case which came out this week in Michigan....some folks aren't that smart.

Some folks had come up with this demo house idea.....a completely independent solar-powered house. It would have no gas or electrical hookups. Common sense might say you ought to have something hooked up....just in case...but the boys wanted to be proud of their agenda.

So back in the fall....folks gathered for a ribbon-cutting ceremony. They spent almost $900k to build a 'green-house' in Troy, MI.

This was supposed to be a model and a education tool.

What folks didn't grasp during the planning phase....was there were pipes in the place and this was a fairly cold region. So naturally....winter came to Michigan.

Frozen pipes occurred. Damages? $16,000 in damage to floors.

These were fine wood floors...not that concrete stuff. So all of it has to be ripped out, and they have to find someone who will pretend the price is $16k but will pay someone's cousin $2k of that for the cooperation fee....I'm just guessing, if this is a normal Detroit operation.

Right now, they don't have the $16k. The building is locked up. And the community organizer folks are kinda upset. I'm guessing some planner and designer is moving quickly out of the area...having not considered what you need for a real house.

The Modern Day Beverly Hillbillies

I sat and pondered over modern times and the old Beverly Hillbillies. It would be a great script to write.

Jed has come to realize that the hedge funds and Wall Street crowd....abused Mr Drysdale's trust...and stole 99 percent of the Clampett fortune. Jed stands there for about 30 seconds....pausing....twisting his head ever so slightly. Then he says....well doggy....ain't that something?

At that point, Jethro would ask "you reckon we ought to go up and kick the fire out of those folks for Mr Drysdale?"

Note, this was not intended for discretion's taken against the Clampetts but against their friend.

Jed would sit there and think for a second....then say "Boy, we don't need to aggrevate a bad situation....just go and whoomp them for half an hour....that'll be enough".

The next day, Jed would take the belongings they brought to Beverly Hills and load them onto the truck. Ellie May would take up the various animals and put them up on the high seat. Granny would load up enough moonshine to make it from LA to Tennessee. And Jethro would say adios to his friends in the seventh grade....who'd he'd known for twelve years....all in the seventh grade.

Mr. Drysdale would pack up....because he was all broke now too and fired by the Obama Administration. His lovely secretary....Miss Hathaway would pack up because she'd lost her fortune and was being kicked out of her condo. And Dash Riprock simply said adios to those leaving....he was staying and moving in with Brittney Spears.

So Jed moved all the way back to Tennessee and got settled back into the cabin. A year goes by. Everyone has kinda gotten use to regular life. Moonshine flows daily with Grannie's still.

Then, someone calls and asks Mr. Drysdale about those hidden funds he had in Bolovia. He stands there and remembers having three or four million dollars secretly stashed there in a natural gas venture. It was the only international investment that he had with Jed's money. The guy on the phone says that the whole thing has taken off, and now is worth $500 million.

Tears flow down Mr Drysdale's face. He weeps openly.

He runs down the dirt trail and proudly stands at Jed's cabin. Jed's reaction to all of this.....well doggy. The family packs up and goes back to Beverly Hills....and moves back into the old masion which sat vacant anyway.

As Jed might say....you roll with the punches and then roll a bit more....sooner or later, you end up back where you started.

Adios, Dealers

When I was a kid in Bama...within a twenty-five mile radius of my house....there were a total of seven Ford dealers. Don't ask about GM or Chrysler....because my dad in those days was a Ford-guy.

My dad typically bought a new car every two years. He would drive the car into the ground on the mail route and then find enough reason to buy another Ford. This enormous mission would then occur. He'd pick the type and then proceed to all seven Ford dealers.

Color really didn't matter too much....although you could forget white or red. So he'd waste an hour talking to the sales guy and finally get the rock bottom price. Then we'd proceed onto the next guy. Same model, same type. From the seven involved, there was never more than $350 difference from top to bottom. We probably burned $60 of gas in this adventure....remember....gas was between 45 and 80 cents in this era.

By age sixteen, my dad had now expanded the circle to 100 miles, and I discovered that there were around eighteen of these dealers now. That was pretty much where I saw no benefit to this entire game. I lost interest fast. The price difference....never more than $350 on that model.

So today, when these guys sit and talk of terminating 1,000 dealers within GM or Ford or Chrysler....it really doesn't bother me....at least from a sales point. In fact, within twenty-five miles of my dad's place...there ought to be a max of three dealers. I might even go down to two.

The real issue comes after that point, with maintenance. If I have a bad situation and need a repair....then show up at some guy's lot with my broke car.....I don't want to have to wait five days to get a one-day warranty repair job done. I don't see service coming out as a plus in this down-size deal.

Another curious thing is that car dealers were typically the money-bags for local political figures. If you slept with them....you got support and introduced to the right people. So we are taking out a 1,000 GM dealers....who would have helped some local political figure make it to the big-time. This might be a plus in some ways.

Now, if I were a Honda dealer....watching this unfold.....I'd put out an ad and let folks know that my business is up and running....with a 5-star maintenance staff still in place. Nothing changed. I might just be able to steal business from GM and Chrysler.

Its a new day in car buying, and we might just regret it.