Friday, January 14, 2011

Why Wasn't He Locked Up?

The Dangers of Good Intentions
(c) 2011 by Tom King

Now that it's been established that "he who must not be named" was clearly out of his ever-lovin' mind, everybody is looking for someone to blame. It's the health care system.  It's the evil Republicans. It's the schools system. It's the parents.

Well I was there when it started going bad. It happened because a lot of nice people were appalled by the conditions in American mental hospitals.  Conditions up through the 70's were awful in many state-run hospitals. Many patients were serving what was, in essence, life sentences behind bars without access to due process.  The activists who rose up to do something about it meant well.  Unfortunately, nobody quite thought the whole thing through when they were passing the legislation to free the mentally ill.

What happened was that tens of thousands of mentally ill patients were suddenly given the option of signing themselves out of care on their own recognizance. The new laws made it more difficult to commit someone until they actually hurt themselves or others. A patient could show all the symptoms in the world that they were fixing to go on a killing rampage - as he who must not be named did. It wouldn't matter how many warning signs there were.  So long as a person doesn't commit a crime or hurt themselves or someone else, they must agree to any mental health treatment they receive.

If a person with a mental disorder chooses not to receive help, there's precious little anyone can do to intervene as long as he remains relatively functional and doesn't violate the law. Even then, the violation has to be extreme and directly related to his underlying mental condition.

A very bright schizophrenic can manipulate those around him and keep himself at liberty for a long time, even though his psychosis may be escalating out of control.  Until he opens fire, there may not be a thing you can do about it.

When we created these well-intentioned civil rights protections in the 80s, we rejoiced as mental patients streamed out of the grim gates of the nation's loony bins. A few years later, however, we began to notice an increase in the number of ragged human beings sleeping on steam grates, in parks or on loading docks. Our homeless shelters are overflowing all of a sudden. Then to our horror we realized that many of those new homeless were the same ones we'd set free from the mental institutions.

I can't tell you how to solve the problem. I didn't create it. I do hope someone will take the time to look at how we can create a way to intervene with folks who are obviously dangerous.  The only problem is, we could wind up with draconian measures that allow government officials to send people to the gulags who aren't crazy - merely disagreeable.

Like me.

I'm just sayin'


Liberty and the Wrath of God

(c) 2011 by Tom King

“Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are a gift from God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath?”   - Thomas Jefferson, 1781

Wrath of God?  From Jefferson the deist?  You're kidding, right?

Nope.  Jefferson like others of the founding fathers counted on Americans to understand that the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness was a God-given and sacred thing and that if we denied that right to any man, God would be angry about it.  And that has proved the case over and over. 

Jefferson points up a fundamental difference between God's system of government and man's. God looks to change the heart.  Obedience to the law proceeds from the heart outward.  Man's government forces obedience from above. What TJ was saying was that when we believe that liberty is a sacred thing which God Himself defends, then liberty is safe from us. No external human law or threat of force from outside can insure liberty. In fact, external human control (as with a powerful government) only insures the loss of liberty. The paradox is that trying to "protect" liberty by mustering out the Gestapo, doesn't work very well as a means to preserve liberty. The only practical government for a free people is one in which the people value liberty above all and understand its importance - where liberty is preserved because the people value it.

Okay, so people are uncomfortable with the idea of God's wrath. Try looking at WHY God gets wrathful.  Notice that when Scripture talks about God's wrath, if you look at the historical events, you can kind of see why He might be angry.  Considering the provocation, most of us would agree that He had a reason to be angry.

Take God's insistent that Israel rid itself of the trappings of pagan worship and the temples and shrines in the land. Someone asked me once why God couldn't have simply allowed "freedom of religion" in ancient Israel as He did in America - let the worshipers of Baal and Molech peacefully coexist with the Jews in Israel? Why would that hurt?

Some background information clears that right up. During the early days of Israel, an estimated 22,000 infants were annually tossed into pits of fire as part of the worship of Molech. In Baal worship, all girls, starting around age 13 had to go to the temple of Baal and could not leave or marry until a certain number of the area's dirty old rich guys paid to screw them. Submitting to beatings and abuse were often part of the services they had to perform. Women were not allowed to marry until they had "served" in the temple.There was much worse. I don't blame God one bit for refusing to protect the Children of Israel from their enemies when they tolerated such evil to continue in their midst. It would have made me angry that they tolerated mass murder in their midst.  God simply backed away, removed His protection and let them see the consequences of doing it on their own.

I'm kind of glad God gets wrathful sometimes especially when His wrath is protecting our liberty

If you tell God you want no part of Him, then you have no reason to complain when evil befalls you. If you want God to leave you alone, He honors your wishes. We've have stopped teaching our children to value liberty and taught them to value bread and circuses. Our culture - at least a large segment of it - teaches that there is no God anyway. Of course, they immediately complain when disaster strikes and want to know "Where was God?" 

Hey, if you send him away, God actually goes. It's like the guy who sued the city to keep his restaurant business outside the city limits so he wouldn't have to pay city taxes.  Then he complained that the city's fire trucks didn't come to put out the fire when his restaurant burned to the ground. The volunteers eventually got there to put it out, but it was too late. If you reject the protection, you really have no excuse to complain.

God's wrath over the issue of liberty protects our liberties. But if we tell God we don't want Him or His wrath, then what protects our liberties. Sadly, our liberties are, without our respect for the sacredness of those liberties, in the most danger from ourselves.
Do you know why, no matter how many revolutions they have, so many countries in Central and South America can't seem to fundamentally change their governments. It's one corrupt banana Republic after another. The tenacity of corrupt dictatorships goes back to Spanish rule.  They've always had corrupt bureaucracies in Latin American governments. Revolution only changes the faces of the leaders. The bureaucracy itself, and thus the nature of the government never changes. The system simply molds new leaders into the sorts of corrupt tyrants the system expects - despite their good intentions.

God gave us a country without a history - a clean slate. He helped us win our liberty from arguably the most powerful nation on Earth. We haven't always done well with our liberty. We often tolerated things we should not have like slavery, the Robber Barons, the mass murder of native Americans, the Mexican War, the forced sterilization of people with mental illness by eugenics laws in the early 1900s. And God has punished us for our missteps.  The Civil War, I believe, was God's wrath on us for tolerating slavery so long - both North and South. Because we tolerated robbing people of their liberty as we did with black Americans for so many years, God stepped back his larger protection of this country and let us go to killing ourselves.  Notice how the tenor of the war shifted after Lincolin issued the Emancipation Proclamation. It was the start of the Union victory march.

Though we've made mistakes, all through the history of our country, we have taught our kids the principles of liberty as spelled out in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. We've taught our kids that God values liberty and it was given to us by Him at America's founding. Generation by generation we have become a better, more just and righteous people.

It's been a messy process, but we are the better for it. We didn't do everything right and did many things wrong, but we struggled and still strive, generation after generation to achieve the ideals of liberty. And we have made gains: women's suffrage, freeing the slaves and civil rights most notably.

That's why this country is so sharply divided these days. There are those who would fundamentally change our system from a God-centered respect for liberty to one that is a human centered, enforced from above system that forces people to all think and behave the same way. There is a movement to change "Every man has the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" to "Every man has to buy free universal health care, to buy energy efficient light bulbs and to believe the way everybody else does or be shut up."

That's what I see coming. It's the same people over and over trying to enact laws that control what we say and where we say it, what organizations we can belong to and who knows what else.  They say the government should be able to tell us whether we can own a gun, write a book, hold a meeting or speak on the Internet, TV, in print or on the radio. They make no secret that their purpose is to make everyone conform to what they believe "everybody believes". They have no problem removing troublesome dissenters in the name of "peace".

As C.S. Lewis said, "Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience."   — C.S. Lewis

There are people who think the government should be able to tell people like me to shut up - for my own good, of course. They say we have no right to say what we do any more than we have a right to shout "Fire!" in a crowded theater.

Well, what if the theater actually is on fire?
Just one man's opinion.
Tom King

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Death of the Canary

In the wake of Congresswoman Giffords' tragic shooting, the so-called blogosphere has descended once again into madness. I really should say, "The blogosphere has further descended into madness."  It's already been pretty awful for some time now.

Today's Internet is a wonderful tool which allows anyone who wishes to avail him or herself of the tools, to publish a semi-professional looking newsletter or weblog about anything that suits him. This wonderful resource has given us such gems as "The Art of Manliness", Blog Talk Radio, Banjoquest, GeekDad and "Pirates, Man Your Women". It also gave us countless political blogs that attract small groups of true believers who use the cover of anonymity to say really nasty things about people and ideas they do not like.

Both sides of the current debate have their mentally unstable. I try not to get drawn into debates with them. It becomes apparent after very few passes that the person is operating on less than all cylinders or, as my Dad used to say, "A few bricks shy of a load."  Dad was a bricklayer in his halcyon days and loved his hod-carrier metaphors.

At some point, as it did in the United States in 1859, the insanity of the fringes overwhelms those of us who, under normal circumstances, would rather peacefully go about our business, raise our kids and go fishing ever once in a while.

They used to take canaries down into the mines with the working crews. Canaries are sensitive to poisonous gases and if the canary dropped off its perch, the miners knew to make a run for the surface if they wanted to live.

To me, this country's political canary has been looking a bit peeked lately. The hatred on both sides is beginning to spill over. The effect is much like what happened in my neighborhood during the David Koresh debacle at Waco. We lived less than an hour from the standoff. When they yielded to his demands and put his deluded ramblings on the air, we began to see a steady stream of schizophrenics and delusional paranoids, passing through our town on the way to Waco, drawn by the insanity that was happening there.

That did not turn out well for anyone involved. Both the feds and the people in the compound were sucked into an escalating struggle, fed by outside agitators and media frenzy till the whole thing literally caught fire.

The appearance of support for delusional thinking only deepens the psychosis of the person thinking delusionally. Encouraged, the deluded can become violent and others may be drawn into his delusion in the ensuing violence and mayhem.  Unfortunately, we face, in today's political discourse, the same problem my church had with David Koresh and Islam has with Al Quaeda.  Fanatics cast themselves as "holier than thou". They prey upon our doubts about ourselves to try and make us feel guilty that we aren't doing enough. We may, as my church did with Mr, Koresh, throw the bum out, or, as Islam is apparently doing with its jihadists, feed the crocodile hoping he doesn't turn and eat us. Either way, fanatics will burn you.  My church got bomb threats when Koresh set himself and his followers on fire and we had nothing to do with him. Peaceful Muslims get tarred with the same brush as the terrorists because they fear to speak out and get themselves blown up for their trouble. 11000000

Fanatics hit us with accusations one upon another.  "Why don't you help get out the vote?"  "Why don't you write more letters to your Congressman?"  "Why don't you make some signs and get out to the rally?"  "Why don't you care about Obama's birth certificate?" "Why don't you care about the polar bears?" "How can you shop at Wal-Mart?"

They draw people into their fanaticism by painting themselves as more righteous, more caring and more courageous. They want us to feel guilty for not believing as they do. It doesn't help that the country is in deep trouble right now. It doesn't help that we have external enemies who would see us fail and will help in any way they can. These factors only make us more vulnerable to they hysteria bred by fanatics.

The canary is wobbling on its perch. If we don't want to wind up dead on the floor of the mine, it's time we head for the surface. We were headed for this during the Carter administration. I remember feeling every bit this discouraged and at odds with my fellow countryman over the direction we were taking.  Ronald Reagan led the country to the surface for a time. He was a breath of fresh air for most of us.  Even though a lot of people balked and bad-mouthed him, he stayed relentlessly positive. We need a leader of that caliber and I don't care if it's a he or a she, a Democrat or Republican, a Christian, Jew or whatever.  We need a change in the way we talk to each other and I'm not just talking to my liberal friends.  I'm talking to the folks who publish some of the vicious stuff I've seen from people claiming to be Tea Party members.

I'm warning you, you come to a rally with that garbage on your signs and we'll send you elsewhere with that filth.  There's no place for poisonous talk like that - especially not from conservatives and Christians.

We must recapture our civility if we hope to win the debate. A good share of Ronald Reagan's power was his unfailingly good-natured attitude, his graciousness and respect for his opponents.  It was the silk glove over the iron fist and it made all the difference.

So, how about lets take it down a notch everybody? Let's get some air in here. Let's resuscitate the canary. Let's treat others the way we want to be treated. A very wise carpenter once said that.

It's good advice......


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Selling Walton's Mountain.......The Return of the Death Tax

It's baaaaaaaaaack!

As of January 1, the death tax is once again the law of the land. Even Whoopi Goldberg is mad and weirdly enough, I agree with her.

The Death Tax taxes property that the dead guy has already paid taxes on.

The new tax takes 35% of everything on any estate worth more than five million dollars. Most profitable family farms are worth more than that.  Thirty five percent is a crippling hit on a business that depends for profitability on having paid off the land that your great granddaddy homesteaded 120 years ago. The cost of the death tax is like forcing the family agri-business to buy back more than a third of its land every time a grandpa dies.

It's not just the taxes.  Just filing the required tax report to pay the death tax can easily cost $25,000 or more and produces a stack of paperwork almost a foot deep that you have to hire federal bureaucrats to read and review so....... 

Tax accounts preparing the tax forms are expensive. With the taxes, preparation fees, attorney fees, loan fees and interest, the business generally has to borrow money to pay the taxes.

The cost to collect the tax can be a hefty 60% of the tax actually collected. In some cases the costs to the government actually add up to more than the taxes collected.

 It doesn't take much to make a business worth five million dollars and it doesn't take much of a sudden financial hit to bring down such a business, putting employers and owners out of work and ending the company's ability to pay any more taxes. (Does no one read the story about the goose that laid the golden eggs?).

Bear in mind that the family business also gets absolutely nothing for an expenditure of millions of dollars. Imagine the Walton's having to pay 35-50% of the value of Walton's Mountain when Grandpa died.  Do you figure John and Olivia could have kept the family lumber business going if the fed made them suddenly shell out more than 1.75 million bucks (assuming the mountain and the sawmill and house was worth only five million)?

The death tax is definitely a wealth killer which should make Democrats very happy. It's also a job killer, a tax-payer killer and an economy killer. Wonder if that makes them happy too?

Do the the people who came up with this idea despise "the wealthy so much that they don't care about the consequences of this turkey.

The whole death tax thing works out to be downright unfair to working families. Whoopi Goldberg is a lot like a family business. It's a business that supports Whoopi, her kid, her agent, her business manager, and and an assistant or so at the very least. She dies and more than half of it gets eaten up to pay the tax bill, which may be why Whoopi is mad about it and popped off at Joy Behar the other day on TV.  I think she's planning to leave some money behind for her daughter Alexandrea. Funny how having a kid, that you actually love, can make a conservative out of you  - at least where your kid is concerned.

Just one man's opinion.

Tom King