Category Archives: Political Commentary

The Help for Students that Never Was

I almost got excited this week, readers. I saw that Elizabeth Warren had introduced the “Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act,” and thought that finally I would be able to refinance my 8% private student loans into something close to the 4.5% my government student loans are locked in at. Listen, I don’t have a problem paying back my student loans – but why are lenders making this much money off of students? I’m not asking for 0%, but I’m asking for something like what I can get on a 15 year mortgage – something around 3%. They’d still make money! But I digress.

Warren’s bill looks great, until you get to the end.

When you get to Section 3, the section is entitled “Fair share tax on high-income taxpayers.” Wait, what? What is that doing in a bill that is supposed to help students? Is this woman actually alleging that allowing graduates to refi into a lower interest rate under a government program is going to cost the government money? By moving those loans from private to public, the government is going to make money off of the interest no matter what the rate is – and that is money they never would have received before! So they want to make money on top of their money? REALLY?!

I’m not a CPA and I hate working with numbers. But I see this bill throwing 30% around, and that’s not even funny when you consider what we already pay in taxes. Sure, only households that gross $1 million or more would be impacted, but why the hell are we raising their taxes to begin with?

Sure, our tax code needs some work. But if we want to work on it, sneaking tax hikes onto the back of a student loan relief bill isn’t the way to do it. We should sit down and discuss the tax code and figure out what we want to accomplish, and then figure out how to get there. But this? This seems like a trick that would ensure the bill would not pass, and then would give Warren a nice soapbox to stand on and scream that “Republicans don’t want to help students ahhhhhhh!!

Stop it, politicians. Just stop. This country is in trouble. We need to put our ideologies aside and have a real discussion about how to dig ourselves out of this nice hole that ALL politicians have helped to dig. Get it together.

You can check out the full text of the bill here.  Be warned, you’ll probably start yelling at the computer.

Mr. Obama, maybe folks are mad because you’re a liar

Matt Walsh sums it up pretty perfectly. Just because you hear it in a speech doesn’t make it true!

The Matt Walsh Blog

Dear Mr. Obama,

Congratulations on getting 7.1 million people enrolled in Obamacare before the March 31st deadline!

Not to muddy the festivities by harping on technicalities, but I thought I’d pass along just a few corrections, in case you plan on giving anymore speeches or anything:

Alright, by ‘March 31st’ you mean ‘sometime in April,’ and by ‘deadline’ you mean ‘suggestion which is subject to change.’

And, obviously, by ‘enrolled’ you mean ‘people who have filled some information out on a website.’

And by ‘7.1 million’ you mean ‘probably like 858 thousand or something.’ 

In your speech on Tuesday, when you said that Obamacare is ‘the law’ and ‘it’s here to stay,’ you really meant that Obamacare is ‘a fluid and constantly adjusted set of unconstitutional decrees, which can be imposed or withdrawn by the Executive Branch at any point, for any reason, up to 21 times and counting.’ And by ‘here…

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Front Sight Four Day Defensive Handgun Review

After messing around at my local range for a year, a friend turned me on to the FrontSight brand of training courses. After purchasing a membership, we signed up for our first class – the Four Day Defensive Handgun. As the class approached, my husband and I packed up all of our gear (handguns + backup handguns, and 600 rounds of each caliber), and when March 20th rolled around, loaded the car and drove into the desert.

Here is me, my husband Mark, and one of my besties, Brandi, hangin’ at FS:

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You approach the town of Pahrump about an hour after turning off Interstate 15 onto CA-127. The 127 is a two lane “highway” through the desert, where you will see few cars but lots of really great desert views. In March, there were some desert blooms and green patches. I’m sure in the summer it is awful!

After reading lots of reviews, we decided to stay at the Best Western. They have a good Front Sight discount, so make sure you ask. The room was clean and just fine, but our neighbors were inconsiderate jerks. The upstairs neighbors stomped around until 11pm or 12am, and the next door neighbor started up his radio at 5am and never turned it off. Finally, on the last night, they moved us upstairs where it was MUCH quieter. You have to schlep your stuff up stairs, but that was worth it for the quiet.

The complimentary breakfast was fine, and had waffles, eggs, potatoes, biscuits and gravy. I ate it the first day, regretted it, and went back to the protein breakfast bars I packed.

We also decided to pack a giant cooler with sandwich stuff to pack for our lunches. This worked out very well until we switched rooms, and I didn’t realize the little mini fridge was turned way down – so nothing really stayed cold on the last night and I didn’t want to risk it. We purchased lunch from the Beach Café truck onsite (same company that provides the pre-ordered lunches) that day. We had chicken strips, and they were great! So that worked out fine. Where the cooler really came in handy was for drinks – having a steady supply of freezing cold water and ginger ale (heat pisses off my stomach sometimes) was amazing.

Our Gear

For my Front Sight course, I brought my M&P Pro in 9mm with a Salient Arms flat trigger, with a trigger pull weight of about 4.5 pounds. They did test my trigger to make sure it wasn’t below 4 pounds, which isn’t allowed for these classes. I also purchased the BladeTech IDPA pack, which included the OWB Kydex holster and a magazine pouch. This was perfect for the class.

My husband brought his M&P Pro CORE in .40, stock trigger (6 pounds?), and the same holster set up I had.

A note on BladeTech – my husband thought that he had the right holster for his Pro CORE. At exactly 2 weeks, we realized it didn’t actually fit! I submitted the order to BladeTech and let them know it was a rush, and they had it to me lightning fast, no problem. Five stars for BladeTech’s customer service, they were just fantastic.

For clothes, we packed mostly 5.11 cargo pants with CoolMax-type shirts. I found I wanted to be in a tank top the whole time, so I washed them in the sink to re-wear. I had also packed long sleeved sun shirts and short sleeve CoolMax shirts, but the tank tops were the best for me. Take a few options. My husband wore CoolMax t-shirts or polos.

For our “concealment garments,” we packed long sleeved button down hiking shirts. MISTAKE. The day I practiced with my Patagonia down jacket was my fastest day out of the holster. I wish I had realized that BEFORE the skills test. My husband had the same experience, and shot it with his Carhartt jacket. Next time, I’ll buy what they were calling a “shoot me” vest – because it is obvious you’re carrying if you’ve got one on, and you’ll be the first one bad guys shoot.

For shoes, we both wore our normal hiking boots. Even with those, my feet were feeling it by day 2, but toughened up and were fine by day 4.

Day 1 – The Arrival

You’re told to get to the gates between 7am and 8am for weapons check and check-in. We arrived right on time, parked, and headed over for inspection. You wait in a line, and, when it is your turn, head over to a table where they check your ammo and weapon to make sure it complies with their rules. No “pocket pistols,” .22s, triggers lighter than 4lbs, things like that. After, you head to check-in where they find you in their system and send you to a range. We were assigned range 1A, after a little snafu.

They couldn’t find us in the system. We had originally registered for the March 21 Two Day Defensive Handgun, and later called and switched into the Four Day. Well…looks like the office switched us into the February 21 class! Oops. They were able to accommodate us anyway, so it was fine.

After check-in everyone heads to the classroom for a “lecture”.

The lecture is given by Brad Ackman, who has been with Front Sight for…well, a long time, I guess. We went over some waivers we had to sign, including a “Dry Practice Protocol.” Very important.

After the classroom lecture, you head out for “Range Activities.” We were on Range 1A with Range Master David Jones, and line coaches Carol Beneux, Miles, Jack Cummings, and Nick. I can’t remember everyone’s last name…possibly my brain is fried.

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The day starts off with going over the Front Sight firearm safety rules. These are IMPORTANT. No one wants to go home with extra holes, that’s just not fun.

  1. Treat every weapon as if it were loaded.
  2. Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy.
  3. Keep your finger off the trigger and outside the trigger guard.
  4. Be sure of your target and what’s in line with your target.

You have to break two of these before anyone can actually get hurt, so I think it works well. After going over these rules, they go over how the range drills will work. The class works in two relays, with one relay on the firing line, and the other relay just behind working as student coaches. They also went over various range commands, such as: “range is clear,” “firing drill” (present to the ready, load, and once you are satisfied with the condition of your weapon, slowly and safely back to the holster), “dry practice drill” (present to the ready, unload), “unload,” “turn and face,” “STOP,” “reset your action,” etc.

The first real procedure you learn is the chamber check/magazine check. You bring the firearm in close, move the slide back 1/4” to allow you to see if there is a round in the chamber, and pull the slide forward. Then you check the magazine, removing one if there is one in there, or sticking your finger into the magazine well if there isn’t to make doubly sure there isn’t. I think this is really smart, because loaded chamber indicators can malfunction, and you can do this on every single weapon.

The class is then taught the Front Sight specific ways of loading and unloading. You’ll learn that there, and it is called “indexing.”

The Stance

Front Sight preaches the Weaver Stance. From Wikipedia:

The Weaver stance has two main components.

  1.    The first component is a two-handed technique in which the dominant hand holds the pistol or revolver while the support hand wraps around the dominant hand. The dominant arm’s elbow is slightly bent while the support elbow is noticeably bent straight down. The shooter pushes forward with his/her dominant hand while the support hand exerts rearward pressure. The resultant isometric tension is intended to lessen and control muzzle flip when the firearm is fired.
  2.    The second component is the positioning of the feet in a walking stance, with the off-side foot ahead of the strong-side foot. A right-handed person will have the right foot angled out to approximately forty-five degrees to the side and to the rear at shoulder length. Most of the weight will be on the forward foot, with the forward knee slightly bent and the rear leg straight. The shooter’s upper torso should be leaning forward at the hips, putting the shoulders just over the forward foot. The rear foot will help catch the force of recoil, as well as allow for rapid changes in position. A left-handed person would reverse the footing.

I was shooting…well, let’s call it jacked-up isosceles. They fixed me and I had to FIGHT to get that stance the whole weekend. Sticking a magazine under my left armpit helped to keep my from “chicken winging” it.

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With that, we shot a few rounds. I sucked. Then I sucked some more. Then they sat us down and told us the “three secrets” of marksmanship…

  1.    Sight alignment
  2.    Sight picture
  3.    Trigger control

For me, it’s my trigger control that stinks so bad. Dave noticed right away that I want the gun to go BANG! when I say to…so I got to work on taking out the slack and slowly building pressure to get a true “surprise” break. When I did it, I couldn’t miss. When I get in a hurry? Mess. Hot. Mess.

They also help you figure out which of your eyes is dominant – and, lucky me, I’m cross-eye dominant. Oh well. I already knew that. I’m working on retraining, but not that weekend.

Next: Lunch!

We brought our lunch, but ate in the classroom for the air conditioning. The lunch lecture covered the “combat mindset.” Honestly, I was a little sleepy, but it was the same lecture as many I had heard before.

Back to the Range

From then on, we learned how to present properly from the holster. That entails 5 steps. Do it right, and you’re fine. Do it wrong, and they’ll give you a “red gun” (plastic) until you do get it right. We also learned “after-action” drills, and sent some more rounds down range. Or as Carol put it – “turn some money into noise!” Totally.

Classroom Lecture

At 5:15 we were sent in for a classroom lecture about the moral and ethical decisions associated with the use of deadly force. Message? If it isn’t worth dying for, it isn’t worth shooting for.

Considering I’m an attorney, the implications are rather well known to me. An interesting lecture, but I would rather have been sent off to go to sleep early.

Day 2

At 8am, we arrived back on the range. Today we learned the tactical and emergency reload procedures, along with the three types of misfires. We also learned about “failure to stop,” which is when, after a controlled pair, your attacker keeps coming. A single shot to the cranial-ocular cavity will stop that.

Lunch Lecture

This lecture was a presentation by Sonic Ear, to try to get us to buy some $2500 custom ear protection. Super, super awesome product and they are really amazing, but for $2500….eh, I’m ok with muffs and my custom molded solid plugs.

Back to the Range

We next worked on Designated Head Shots (timed), and continued working on drills and technique. I was wiped by the end of this day.

Classroom Lecture

This was the introduction to “Monsters, Inc.” and the procedure for clearing a room, or house, or enclosed area. Interesting, but when the gun safe sales person jumped up to try and sell me an over priced safe, we took off.

This was the day that killed me the most. When we got back to the hotel room, I was EXHAUSTED! I was really freaked out by how tired I was, but I got some sleep and, despite my jackwagon loud neighbors, felt much better the next day.

Day 3

On day 3, concealment was introduced. It is a little tricky to start, but doable. I recommend just getting a “shoot me” vest (because the bad guys will shoot you first, it is so obvious you are carrying) so you don’t have to stress about getting your garment in the right place. I brought a sun shirt, because I knew it would be hot, and it wouldn’t flip back fast enough. The day I wore my Patagonia Down Jacket was the fastest day for me.

Day 3 is also “Monsters, Inc.” day. You get to go practice clearing doorways with a red gun, and then do a loaded tactical drill in their “tac house.” It was very fun, and I scored 100%.Image

 

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Later that day, we did the “ragged hole” drill, where you stand at the 7 yard line and shoot 5 live rounds into about a 2 inch black square. You shoot 5 live rounds, then do 5 dry presses, and then 5 rounds again. My first 5 were better because I was just too tired by the end of the day!

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I’ll call that one a “win” for me.

Day Four

Day four brought our man-on-man steel competition. I was all amped up and wanted to do well, and I did ok, losing by time only. The person that beat me went on to win the entire challenge, so I guess that’s ok with me!

We also finally made it to the skills test. I wanted to at least graduate with a 70%, but I basically got excited, threw my slow and steady strategy out the window, tried to go fast, and dropped 20 points on accuracy and a crap ton of points on speed.

I was PISSED. I’m very, very (VERY!) competitive, and I wanted a good score. Earlier in the day, our range master had warned us that even he didn’t DG the first time, but after going home and doing 30 days of dry practice (angry dry practice), he was able to get it done. So that’s what I’ll do…ANGRY DRY PRACTICE.

I fully intend to eventually pass with a Distinguished Graduate score, so I can go on to some of the advanced classes.

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Tips:

Hotel: If you stay at Best Western, even though an upstairs room means you have to schlep you stuff up stairs, get it because if your neighbors are elephants, you’ll be really pissy in the morning when you are tired and have to go to the range.

RV: The little group of RVs/trailers that were right outside the FS gates on BLM land looked like they were having a blast. I’d love to do this, but I’m unsure about water / sanitation. You’d have to be totally self-contained for 4-5 days, or take time to go into town and dump/refill. Not sure if that would work for me. It sure looked fun!

Food: We brought our own lunches, but on one day the food got too warm and we had to get food from Beach Café. I got chicken strips, and they were really good! I think their lunches would be fine.

Tacos el Charo: YUM!! YUM YUM! And cheap, with a super nice owner/manager who let us know that if we didn’t have a lot of time to eat, just call ahead and she would have it ready for us. Awesome.

Carmelo’s Bistro-Pizza-Fine Pasta: No. Fail. It looked good, had good Yelp reviews, but the pizza had a weird rubbery mozzarella layer that just wasn’t good – and the mushrooms were canned! Ew.

Steakhouse in the Nugget: This was pretty good. I had a 6oz filet which was great, and my husband had prime rib, also good. Great sides, but I wasn’t a huge fan of the stuffed mushrooms. Maybe we should just skip the Pahrump mushrooms from now on!

Edited to add: I was being so careful to include everything that happened, I didn’t tell you what I really thought! Our Rangemaster was David Jones, who got an assist from Carol Beneaux, Jack, Nick, and one other I’m spacing a name for. They were GREAT! There was no “boot camp” atmosphere (not that that would have bothered me, I learn “boot camp style” just fine), and they really, really want you to become a better shooter. I really can’t think of anything I would change, other than there being less people in the class so we could move a little faster – but being a beginner class, that obviously wan’t going to happen.

I would recommend this class to everyone, beginner to advanced. They kept telling me, “slow is smooth, smooth is fast!” and it is true. Everyone can benefit from slow, very technical and correct, practice. So GO!

***If you are interested in attending Front Sight, contact me — I have memberships available!***

 

Papal Power

Power of the Pope

Someone said to me recently, “the Pope doesn’t have any power.” I was a little taken aback, to be honest, because this person has had…well…let’s just say “plenty of schoolin.'”

For this entry, I focused only on the Early Modern and Modern eras, because, truly, a history of papal influence would take volumes, and maybe a lifetime, to write. When Martin V returned the papacy to Rome in 1420, the papacy began to take an increasingly active role in European wars and diplomacy. The “Warrior Pope,” Julius II (5 December 1443 – 21 February 1513), famously used his influence to reconcile the two powerful Roman families of Orsini and Colonna – no small feat. A continued war between those families could have split the empire – but this pope prevented it.

Julius II orchestrated a Venetian / Papal alliance which eventually expanded into the Holy League, which drove the French from Italy in 1512. Wars were fought at the direction of the Pope.

The Corsican Guard was the papal militia during the time of the Papal States, abolished in 1860.

The Swiss Guard were later created and dispatched to defend Vatican City, and the papacy.

But Julius is just an example. “But what about the modern papacy?” You might ask. “Surely the modern popes have no power?” So let’s “skip to the end,” as Prince Humperdink might implore.

Let’s just look at Pope John Paul II. He is credited with helping to end communism in Poland. When it finally collapsed in 1989, his visit to Poland is credited with helping to lay the groundwork of that collapse.

Pope JP II is also credited with playing a significant role in converting many conservative Catholics into Republican voters – a change from one of the most reliable Democratic voting blocs. The Pope’s influence expanded far outside of Catholic America, and actually started to influence election results.

Now, that is just a sampling of political influence – what about financial influence? The Catholic Church is the third largest landowner in the world. Their holdings consist of 110 acres of The Holy See that makes up Vatican City, plus 177 million more acreage of various lands owned by the Catholic Church around the globe. The National Post opined in 2013 that the Church’s wealth is impossible to estimate.

The American Catholic Church’s annual budget is $170 billion – and that’s just what they are actually spending.

Scholars on this topic have said it better than I: “… although the “sovereign” jurisdiction of the Papal government is minuscule, its direct political influence everywhere is considerable.” “The Role of the Vatican in the Modern World,” Eugene V. Rostow, Boston College, 1968.

When you’re a religious leader of one of the biggest, strongest, and richest world religions, you have a remarkable amount of political and social influence. Can Vatican City use the Swiss Guard to invade the USA and take us over? Likely not. Could a rogue Pope convince another country to do so? Probably. No power? Not really.

No, Prof. Donohue, the Second Amendment is NOT About Restricting Gun Rights

In a recent article, Professor Donohue from the Stanford School of Law stated the following in support of the proposition that the Second Amendment is really about restricting an individual’s right to bear arms. He stated:

“The founding fathers had no idea how powerful–and destructive–today’s weapons would become…”

 Of all of the anti-gun arguments floating around today, I may dislike this one the most. In my opinion, those that push this argument have not truly thought about the state of Constitutional Law today. Even the US Supreme Court minces no words on the issue:

“Some have made the argument, bordering on the frivolous, that only those arms in existence in the 18th century are protected by the Second Amendment. We do not interpret constitutional rights that way. Just as the First Amendment protects modern forms of communications, e.g., Reno v. American Civil Liberties Union, 521 U.S. 844, 849, 117 S.Ct. 2329, 138 L.Ed.2d 874 (1997), and the Fourth Amendment applies to modern forms of search, e.g., Kyllo v. United States, 533 U.S. 27, 35–36, 121 S.Ct. 2038, 150 L.Ed.2d 94 (2001), the Second Amendment extends, prima facie, to all instruments that constitute bearable arms, even those that were not in existence at the time of the founding.”

D.C. v. Heller, (2008) 554 U.S. 570, 582.

Even the US Supreme Court thinks that you are being “frivolous” by using this argument.

By extension, if this argument were valid, where would that leave the First Amendment? There was no internet in 1798. If you wanted to exercise your freedom to speak, your choices were to stand on the street corner and yell, start your own publication (not likely), or write for an established publication. Those writing in widely distributed publications were generally well educated, and overseen by editors. This is likely the type of free speech the Drafters had in mind when setting forth the First Amendment.

Today? Kids have access to far-reaching social media, and actual deaths have been triggered by the advent of “cyber-bullying.” I’m pretty sure that this was not the free speech the Drafters were looking for. So…what? Do we see anyone arguing that the First Amendment should be restricted, or that bloggers / social media subscribers should submit to a background check? No? Well why not?

Because clearly the First Amendment was written to protect almost all speech, save a few exceptions.

And so it is with the Second Amendment – it was written to protect an individual’s right to keep and bear arms, with a few exceptions.

“It’s Not Like Anyone is Trying to Take Your Sporting Guns”

This blog is inspired by something someone said on Facebook yesterday. While, of course, I responded with the face that the 2nd Amendment has nothing to do with the “right” to participate in a sport, or hunt, it got me thinking.

Could you buy an Olympic qualifying rifle or pistol in California? Let’s find out.

The rules for all Olympic shooting sports are set out by the ISSF – the International Shooting Sports Foundation. They have lots of rules on caliber, performance, and modifications. I started really digging into the research, and found that I didn’t need to delve any further when I found a document entitled “Olympic Pistol Exemptions from “Unsafe Handgun” (§12125 PC) and Assault Weapon (§12275 PC) Statutory Provisions.”

Some of you may not know what an “unsafe handgun” is. Well, in California, according to Penal Code section 12131(a), on and after January 1, 2001, the Department of Justice shall compile, publish, and thereafter maintain a roster listing all of the pistols, revolvers, and other firearms capable of being concealed upon the person that have been tested by a certified testing laboratory, have been determined not to be unsafe handguns, and may be sold in this state pursuant to this title. The roster shall list, for each firearm, the manufacturer, model number, and model name.

But, California (you may ask), what is an unsafe handgun? Penal Code section 12126 defines the term “unsafe handgun” as meaning any pistol, revolver, or other firearm capable of being concealed upon the person, as defined in subdivision (a) of Section 12001, for which any of series of enumerated criteria is true.  The criteria are categorized by handgun type:

For a pistol:
(1) It does not have a positive manually operated safety device, as determined by standards relating to imported guns promulgated by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms.
(2) It does not meet the firing requirement for handguns pursuant to Section 12127.
(3) It does not meet the drop safety requirement for handguns pursuant to Section 12128.
(4) Commencing January 1, 2006, for a center-fire semiautomatic pistol that is not already listed on the roster pursuant to Section 12131, it does not have either a chamber load indicator, or a magazine disconnect mechanism.
(5) Commencing January 1, 2007, for all center-fire semiautomatic pistols that are not already listed on the roster pursuant to Section 12131, it does not have both a chamber load indicator and if it has a detachable magazine, a magazine disconnect mechanism.
(6) Commencing January 1, 2006, for all rimfire semiautomatic pistols that are not already listed on the roster pursuant to Section 12131, it does not have a magazine disconnect mechanism, if it has a detachable magazine.

So that’s your primer. California has gone way out if its way to create an entire secondary level of “safety” testing for pistols sold in the state, which sits on top of the already stringent testing done by all gun manufacturers because, obviously, they don’t want to get sued!

Under these regulations, none of the Olympic/match grade pistols could be sold in California. Apparently someone realized that and came up with the “Olympic Pistol Exemptions.” Mmmm hmmm. So it is unsafe because they haven’t paid the protection money registration fees to the State of California…except for this list that is safe because they are used in Olympic competitions.

So the answer to my question is no – you can’t buy an Olympic qualifying pistol/rifle in California, unless it is on the “California approved” exemption list. Which was last updated in 2011. So…if you want the latest and greatest in shooting equipment, and you live in California – you’re out of luck. Just look at the Olympic swimsuits. Those things change every year! New fabric, technology, cut…well, if your pistol even changes color, it’s off the list, so any innovation is going to put our California athletes at least a year behind other competitors.

Interesting to think about.

A Nation of Individuals

For my “first post” on the new 15 Hands Tough blog, I’m reblogging something I wrote a little over a year ago. This is one of my rare political posts, but hopefully it gives you a flavor for what you’ll be seeing here apart from gear reviews and fun things about the outdoors.

Originally Published July 17, 2012

I do not normally post political blogs, because to my mind nearly every political statement has another side, another story, and I believe that everyone is entitled to their opinion. I love playing devil’s advocate, and so long as the argument has some rational basis in supportable fact I can respect both sides. When a political argument gets personal or deviates from provable reality, then I start to have a problem – but my issue there generally manifests as a refusal to engage. I am not a huge fan of President Obama, I will say that right up front. I am a supporter of some of the things he has done, and not for others. I’m like that with every politician – some ideas I can get behind, some I can’t. This recent speech from President Obama, however, has me actually fired up more than any political debate has in many, many months. I am going to post you the complete statement, and my deconstruction of it:

“We’ve already made a trillion dollars’ worth of cuts. We can make some more cuts in programs that don’t work, and make government work more efficiently…We can make another trillion or trillion-two, and what we then do is ask for the wealthy to pay a little bit more …

There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me, because they want to give something back. They know they didn’t -look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something – there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there.

If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business. you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.

The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together. There are some things, just like fighting fires, we don’t do on our own. I mean, imagine if everybody had their own fire service. That would be a hard way to organize fighting fires.

So we say to ourselves, ever since the founding of this country, you know what, there are some things we do better together. That’s how we funded the GI Bill. That’s how we created the middle class. That’s how we built the Golden Gate Bridge or the Hoover Dam. That’s how we invented the Internet. That’s how we sent a man to the moon. We rise or fall together as one nation and as one people, and that’s the reason I’m running for president – because I still believe in that idea. You’re not on your own, we’re in this together.” President Obama, Roanoke, VA.

In paragraph 1, the President puts right up front what he is really saying; he is asking for the “wealthy” to “pay a little bit more.” That is 100% acceptable to say if that is the basis on which he is running, and I think it probably is. I would love a definition of “wealthy” and a “bit more,” but this speech was at a fundraiser so I don’t expect that. So there is nothing particularly remarkable about this paragraph other than the fact that the President is setting up his base position.

Paragraph 2 is something slightly different. He claims support from “wealthy, successful Americans,” which he actually has. My eyebrow begins to raise here, because there have been talks of raising the tax rate on households that gross over $250,000.00 per year, but those “wealthy” Americans that have publicly thrown support behind this higher tax idea make far, far, FAR more than that (think Mr. Warren Buffett). There is a huge difference between Mr. Buffett’s income and a household with children, a mortgage, and some student loan payments living in Los Angeles, California – but I digress. The point here is that I’m starting to feel that the President is out of touch with the reality of the middle class.

He continues to say, “look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own.” I do not disagree with this statement at all. We all had help somewhere. No one is disputing this. Moving on…

“I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something – there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there.”

Absolutely. There ARE a lot of hardworking people out there that aren’t making it. There is always someone out there that is a little smarter and works a little harder than any individual…but does that mean that I didn’t work a little harder and a little smarter than someone else to get where I am? Of course there are a lot of hardworking people out there – but there are also a lot of people that AREN’T working hard. There are a lot of people out there that have no interest at all in working hard. I’m not quite sure what any of that has to do with anything – there are motivated individuals that work hard, and some make it and some don’t – but that shouldn’t mean that those that DO make it shouldn’t be recognized.

In essence, it seems to me that the President is setting up for his next statement by saying, “you’re not so smart just because you are successful.” We all know I agree with that – we all know the successful, wealthy people that we just look at and shake our heads, wondering how they got there. I think that is the exception, however, and not the rule. The President continues:

“If you’ve got a business. you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.” Here is where I have the problem. If you’ve got a business, you absolutely built that. But maybe I’m jumping the gun, as some have already accused. Let’s continue: “The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.”

No, the internet didn’t get created on its own, but neither did “government research” create it. Government money (partially) funded large scale research and development projects and think tanks such as the National Science Foundation and the RAND Corporation, but both of those projects had healthy funding from private sources. Even if, hypothetically, government funded those projects in their entirety, that government money had to come from somewhere, and it certainly did – it came from the taxpayers. Only people who work or have income from investments pay taxes, so someone was writing those checks so that the government could then fund these projects. Essentially, private citizens worked hard, paid taxes, and voted for representatives that furthered funding for science which then produced innovation for those same private individuals to derive additional profits from. Again, I understand this was said at a fundraiser – but it was also said by the President of the United States and the leader of a nation that prides itself on its innovators. But let’s move to the next paragraph:

“The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together. There are some things, just like fighting fires, we don’t do on our own. I mean, imagine if everybody had their own fire service. That would be a hard way to organize fighting fires.”

Well sure! Our nation was created when a group of innovative trailblazers set out to create a new nation. In that great document, The Declaration of Independence, those trailblazers made it clear:

“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

At the penning of that statement, those men essentially became nationless. They created a nation from almost nothing – the nation did not create them. It did not. They did succeed because of “their individual initiative” and because they did it together. But next to these great ideals of the individual contributing to the creation and sustaining of a great nation, our President compares the thought of individual excellence to a bunch of idiots trying to all run their own fire service. He says, “I mean, imagine if everybody had their own fire service. That would be a hard way to organize fighting fires.” No one is suggesting that we don’t need a facilitator, some kind of organization (a Government!) to help our nation use our resources as one unit rather than the clowns all jumping out of the clown car trying to put out a fire.

The President’s last paragraph is a fitting conclusion to a fundraising speech, with a great tag line – “We rise or fall together as one nation and as one people.” I wholeheartedly agree, Mr. President. We do rise or fall together. Together we are absolutely better, so let’s use those hardworking innovators and make our government what it should be – a way to help us individuals work together to make our great nation even greater. Government could be a great facilitator, and do great good with the support of the people, and of the taxpayers. The People create the government, and the government exists at the will of the people, as archaic as that idea now sounds. That great document, The Declaration of Independence, acknowledges that political bands can be dissolved, but that “a decent respect to the opinions of mankind” is fundamental. Our government is a creation of our innovators, our trailblazers, and could not exist without us. I could never vote for someone who feels that Government creates and exists for any other reason than to serve the people. I understand this was one statement, at a political fundraiser, but no matter how I slice this speech I can’t escape the feeling that our current President feels that government is good in itself, and that I cannot abide.

It bears mention that President Obama’s statement is an almost identical iteration of what Elizabeth Warren came under fire for last year.

She said: “I hear all this, you know, “Well, this is class warfare, this is whatever.”–No!

There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody.

You built a factory out there–good for you! But I want to be clear.

You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for.

You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate.

You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for.

You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory, and hire someone to protect against this, because of the work the rest of us did.

Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea–God bless. Keep a big hunk of it.

But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.” Elizabeth Warren, August 2011.

Her tone indicates that business owners haven’t paid, or don’t want to pay, taxes that support the basic infrastructure – roads, defense, fire, police, education. It isn’t “business owners” and “the rest of us” – it is just “us.” We can debate the tax structure and how much people should pay, but this anger toward success is not productive. Let’s remember what the original American trailblazers knew – political bonds dissolve, but the People formed this most perfect Union, and to keep what we have, we do have to work together.