Thursday, December 30, 2010

We had to kill him to save him

The St. Cloud Times reports that an unfortunate individual with suicidal tendencies and a shotgun did not survive an encounter with 4 officers.

December 30, 2010

Officers shoot, kill man holding shotgun in Little Falls

By Kari Petrie

LITTLE FALLS — Officers shot and killed a man early this morning who they say was suicidal.

The Morrison County Sheriff’s Office was called at 12:22 a.m. about a man who was suicidal and in possession of a gun, Sheriff Michel Wetzel said.

Morrison County deputies and Little Falls police located the man as he was leaving the home of an acquaintance in northeast Little Falls. When officers tried to stop the vehicle, the driver pulled into a nearby driveway and stopped, Wetzel said.

The 37-year-old man got out of the vehicle with a shotgun, Wetzel said. After repeated attempts to order the man to put the gun down, two Little Falls officers and two Morrison County deputies fired their weapons.

The man was pronounced dead at the scene. His name has not been released.

The names of the officers involved have not been released.

The investigation has been turned over to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

We will never know the details of this incident but we do know that this person, for whatever reason, was given the death penalty by firing squad by 4 highly-trained peace officers without the benefit of any judicial process. We're all much safer now.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The End of Innocence

Roosevelt listening to Daniels.

After Woodrow Wilson won the US Presidency in 1912 he appointed Josephus Daniels, the editor and publisher of the Raleigh News-Observer, Secretary of the Navy. A dedicated Democrat, Daniels had previously served in the Interior Department under Grover Cleveland. After assuming his Naval duties, he chose a tall, lanky New York patrician as his first assistant, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. "The End of Innocence" is meant to be an account of the relationship of these two men as interpreted by Daniels' son, Jonathon, an eyewitness to many of the events of the era and later an editor of the News-Observer himself. In addition to his own personal recollections, the younger Daniels gleaned material from the diaries and journals of prominent figures from that era and even the local scandal sheet, Town Topics.

Fortunately, "The End of Innocence" is much more than the story of the two public figures and their connection. It is a vivid portrait of Washington society, a national but still provincial capital with a permanent population of wealthy, influential residents surrounded by transient officeseekers and lobbyists, all concerned with the maintenance and acquisition of wealth and prestige through proximity to government. His chatty gossip gives us an inside look at not only important figures like William Jennings Bryan, Henry Adams, Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson himself, but also lesser known and remembered personalities like Wilson's closest advisor, Colonel House, Alice Roosevelt Longworth, the amazing Col. Charles L. McCawley and his wife and many others.

Josephus Daniels had a blustery cruise as Secretary of the Navy. A committed prohibitionist, alchohol was banned on ships during his tenure. In charge of the expansion and moderization of the fleet, his ideas of nationalizing shipyards and insulating sailors from immoral influences met with fierce opposition. Eventually his ambitious second became the vice-presidential candidate to James M. Cox on the Democratic ticket in the 1920. Their loss meant that Daniels temporarily returned to his editor's chair in North Carolina. When FDR won the Presidency Daniels was made the ambassador to Mexico.

"The End of Innocence" doesn't tell us much about how government is supposed to function or if it even does. But it tells us a lot about people, the people that make up the political class and how they function. It's not altogether a flattering tale but it's very entertaining.

"The End of Innocence", Jonathon Daniels, J.B. Lippincott Company, 1954.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Bad News for the Welfare State

The Nov.-Dec. issue of Foreign Affairs, a publication of the Council on Foreign Relations, contains the article "American Profligacy and American Power: The Consequences of Fiscal Irresponsibility" by Richard Haas and Roger Altman, two very high-powered establishment guys. It's worth your time to pedal down to the local library and read this essay rather than put down $12.95+tax at Barnes & Noble for the whole magazine. However, if the tires on your bike are flat, I can give you a synopsis of what they're trying to get across. It's over. The US congressional strategy of purchasing votes with the future production of the country has resulted in a state rapidly descending into irreversible financial disaster. US commitments to virtually unlimited defence spending and geometrically expanding entitlement programs financed by treasury bonds are unsustainable. The country is rapidly approaching a situation where a huge percentage of the GDP will be required just pay the interest on these bonds. It is inevitable that government services will be curtailed and that taxes will be increased. This isn't the raving of a radio talk show host. The first is the president of the CFR and a Phd. from Oxford and the second is a former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, an adviser to presidents and presidential candidates, and a fixture in the world of finance and its academic auxiliaries. So what does that mean for you and me?

First of all, the celebrated US standard of living is going to take a slide. We are seeing evidence of this already. Discretionary spending will shrink in predictable ways. Luxury items like sophisticated fishing boats, high-buck motorcycles, expensive furniture, etc. will no longer be options for middle class consumers. Home buyers will be forced to look at smaller houses. Food choices for many will be less exotic.

Second, and most important, the relatively new social safety net will be re-configured because there will be no money to pay for it. It's always seemed strange that while the state could require that parents are responsible for their children, there's never been a push by the government to make these children responsible for the later welfare of their parents. You could say that the parents SHOULD HAVE made provisions for their declining years and if they did so, great. But if they didn't, why does society as a whole assume that responsibility? Sure, social security was supposed to provide some help in that line but the payroll deductions have been dwarfed by the escalating benefits and inflation. Realistically, those deductions were just another tax, they've been poured into the general tax receipts. There won't be any security provided by social security.

Defined benefit public employee pension plans, the black hole that states like California, Illinois and New York stare into now along with many profligate municipalities, will become a thing of the past. And those states and communities faced with the impossible task of guaranteeing these pensions will need some creative thinking to escape their financial responsibility. Escape they must, as dunning the general population into penury to accomodate retired firemen and cops will open the gates to political demagoguery unique in our history.

The US operates under a paradigm of education borrowed from 19th century Germany and relatively unchanged since that time. The educational bureaucracy, from the small local level to the federal pinnacle, exists not to further student knowledge but to perpetuate itself and produce docile citizens with prescribed beliefs. The country can no longer afford an expensive but ineffective system that half-heartedly embraces technological advances that should make it cheaper and better.

How long will the population be able to afford a law enforcement, judicial and penal structure that dominates society? The "war on drugs" for instance, devours tax payer funds in a losing battle with black market entrepeneurs that supply a product to willing customers while encouraging disregard of important laws throughout society. Can we really afford to spend $40,000 a year to incarcerate those convicted of supplying common vegetable matter to happy consumers?

The US military establishment, larger than that of the rest of the entire world, must be shrunk dramatically. The 2011 US Navy budget request is for $160.6 billion.

"The FY 2011 budget supports a deployable battle force of 284 ships including 11 aircraft carriers and 29 large amphibious ships. It also reflects a shift to support irregular warfare and includes funds for the littoral combat ship (LCS), expeditionary E/A-18G aircraft supporting national electronic warfare requirements, P-8 Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance aircraft supporting increased emphasis on intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and a variety of unmanned aerial vehicles."

No other country has more than one carrier. The US has over seven hundred overseas bases. Those in Afghanistan and Iraq are often in the news but we hear less about installations in Bulgaria, Italy, Serbia, Israel, and Greece. In the very near future American military presence will be reduced both at home and overseas, purely for financial reasons. The concept that the US should be an increasingly ineffective policeman for the world will no longer be valid, if indeed it ever was. Other countries, especially the Europeans, will be forced to finance their own military protection in reduced form or forego it entirely.

The days of federally-financed earmark projects, the John J. Murtha Airport in Pennsylvania, anything in West Virginia with Robert Byrd's name on it and obscenely expensive rail and highway projects are numbered, even as "stimulus" efforts.

In the decades to come, the gigantic statist experiment will fail. And that's a good thing.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Tool or Weapon? Who Cares?

The New York Times brings up a topic of marginal interest to many but of great importance to us 19th century fellas. I really can't remember ever leaving the house without a knife, even as a youngster. In fact, a jack knife was a common Christmas present or birthday gift for a boy when and where I grew up. A quality knife was a prized possession and the ability to keep one razor sharp was a talent envied by those who never acquired it. Try butchering a moose with a bad knife. Or doing a good job of sharpening a pencil.

The knife was probably the second tool developed by man, after a primitive stone bludgeon or handle-less hammer. It's only logical that the first knives were chipped from flint many thousands of years ago, before even arrow heads or spear points. Through the centuries improvements in metallurgy were generally initially put to use in edged weapons and tools. Swords evolved over time from the short broad swords of the Greek phalanx to French epees to cavalry sabers. Every advanced culture around the world developed some form of edged weapon. When the victorious continental rebels decided to augment their new constitution with a Bill of Rights, they didn't specify in the second amendment that the right to keep and bear arms was limited to FIREARMS. Firearms in that era were expensive, fragile, unreliable luxuries while edged weapons were arms that were common and available to everyone. Restricting their possession or use would have been considered nonsense then and until the post-war emergence of the nanny state and the spineless acquiescence of the citizenry to futile government efforts to create a risk-free society. Put out that cigarette. Buckle your seat belt.