Blacks Picket The NAACP

For a moment, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Thousands of residents of Harlem, a New York City neighborhood, had taken to the streets to protest the NAACP. And yes, virtually every one of them was black.

What was it all about? Apparently, a huge number of parents in Harlem believe the quality of education their children are getting is more important than the color of the skin of their teachers. They were demanding better schools — even if that meant a bunch of black teachers lost their jobs.

You won’t be surprised to learn that many of our inner-city schools do a terrible job of educating the young people entrusted to them. More than half of the children who start first grade in inner-city schools drop out before they graduate. Many of those who do make it through 12 grades can’t read above a see-spot-run level. Nor can they do such simple math as making change for a purchase of a Big Mac and fries. No wonder the graduates of inner city schools are virtually unemployable.

Officials in New York City decided to do something about this sorry situation.  They announced plans to close 22 of the worst-performing schools in the city. That was enough to get the teacher’s union riled up. But what really put the union on the warpath was when those same city officials said they would permit charter schools to operate in some of the buildings that would soon be vacant.

But charter schools don’t hire members of the teacher’s union. They don’t guarantee teachers jobs for life or steady increases in pay and benefits every year, no matter how badly the teachers do their jobs. Charter-school teachers get paid based on results — not on tenure or political clout.

Of course, all of this is completely unacceptable to the United Federation of Teachers. No wonder union members went ballistic when they heard about the plan. They were simply protecting their turf. After all, the teachers’ union had demonstrated for years that for them, jobs were job one. Political clout ran a close second. Children’s education was not worth worrying about.

This situation is nothing new. Many years ago, the most powerful leader the teachers’ union ever had, Albert Shanker, was honest enough to admit: “When schoolchildren start paying union dues, that’s when I’ll start representing the interests of schoolchildren.”

Hey, he who pays the piper calls the tune. I get that.

And that, my friends, explains why the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has aligned itself with the United Federation of Teachers. The NAACP cares more about the jobs of black members of the teachers union — and in New York City that’s a lot of jobs, folks — than they do about the education of children.

So now you understand why thousands of black parents took to the streets of Harlem last month. Will they make a difference? Not if Hazel Dukes, president of the NAACP in New York, has her way. Dukes said the parents “can march and have rallies all day long… We will not respond.”

The teachers’ union and the New York State chapter of the NAACP have filed suit to stop the city from closing those 22 schools or allowing any charter school to operate in any building occupied by a traditional public school.

Will the officials stick to their guns? Or will they cave from the pressure brought by two of the most powerful entities in the State: the teachers’ union and the NAACP?

I wish I could predict a happy outcome. But I suspect that, once again, the right thing to do will be sacrificed on the altar of political expediency.

Meanwhile, what sort of education are the children in your area getting? What percentage of kids who enter the first grade graduate from high school? And of those who do, how well can they read, write and do basic arithmetic?

It’s been a long time since Why Johnny Can’t Read was a national bestseller. But the problem and the solution to the problem haven’t changed. Fire bad teachers. Pay good teachers more. Get the politicians and bureaucrats out of the way.

And if you really want to see some positive changes in our schools, end the monopoly by union thugs and their political buddies. Open up education to competition. Give more money to those who do a better job and less to those who don’t or can’t.

Sure, there would be weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth from one end of this country to the other. But it wouldn’t come from most students, since they know they are being used by people who really don’t give a hoot about them.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Senators Propose Bill To Protect The Privacy Of Smartphone Users

Senators Al Franken (D-Minn.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) on Wednesday introduced a bill that would require companies that manufacture mobile devices to receive express consent from consumers before sharing information about those users’ locations with third parties.

“After listening to expert testimony at the hearing I chaired last month on mobile technology and privacy and hearing from anti-domestic violence groups in Minnesota who said this kind of technology can be exploited by abusers, I concluded that our laws do too little to protect information on our mobile devices,” Franken said, according to a press release.

The Location Privacy Protection Act seeks to close current loopholes in Federal law, ensuring that consumers know what location information is being collected about them by their mobile devices (such as smartphones and tablets) and allow them to decide if they want to share it.

“As smartphone technology continues to advance, it is vitally important that we keep pace with new developments to make sure consumer data is secure from being shared or sold without proper notification to consumers,” Blumenthal said.

Wisconsin Senate Passes Concealed Weapons Law

Wisconsin residents are on their way to being able to carry a concealed weapon.The Wisconsin State Senate recently passed a law that will allow citizens to more effectively exercise their 2nd Amendment right to bear arms.

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports that the measure to allow Wisconsinites to carry concealed weapons passed by a vote of 25-8.

“This is a great victory for the people of Wisconsin and for the 2nd Amendment,” State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) said in a statement. “The right to protect ourselves by legally carrying a firearm is long overdue, and I’m glad we’re joining 48 other States with this law — finally.”

Wisconsin and Illinois are the only States that have outright banned the carrying of concealed weapons. However, Wisconsin is on its way to joining the rest of the nation.

The measure will require those who wish to carry concealed weapons to undergo training and have a permit.

All 19 Senate Republicans were joined by six Democrats in the vote.

“It’s a Constitutional right,” State Senator Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee) told the news source. “I respect the fact that people have that right.”

Fox News reports that Republican Governor Scott Walker has backed the bill.

Misery In America

*No wonder we’re miserable. Do you remember when the former peanut farmer from Georgia harped on the misery index? To get the misery index, add the inflation number to the unemployment number. In the mid-1970s, the misery index was bad enough to help Carter get elected president. Today, according to John Williams of ShadowStats.com, the true number (not the fabrications the government now promotes) is 25 percent. That’s consumer price inflation of 10 percent, plus unemployment of 15 percent. The total is the highest it’s ever been. No wonder Barack Obama makes us feel miserable.

*“Sheriff” Joe Biden is doing a terrible job. Do you remember when the President put the Vice President in charge of the stimulus program because “nobody messes with Joe?” Obama went on to say, “If you’re misusing taxpayer money, you’ll have to answer to him.” It turns out that contractors who got $24 billion in stimulus money owed more than $750 million in back taxes. Where’s “the Sheriff” when you need him?

*A cheater gets cheated… and wants justice! This one is a hoot. A college senior in Colorado who ordered a custom-written term paper from a firm she found on the Internet felt cheated when it wasn’t delivered on time. When the company refused to give her a refund, she complained to the Better Business Bureau about its dishonest practices. I wonder what her professor said when he found out.

*If you own a cell phone, you must be… poor? Here’s a weird one. Relying on a cell phone is one metric government staticians use to decide whether someone fits the description of “poor.” I kid you not. The more people in a given area abandon land lines for cell phones, the “poorer” that area is considered. Leading the list of states in which citizens have done this are Arkansas and Mississippi, so obviously it must be true. What’s next, counting color TVs? (Come to think of it, that might be a pretty accurate indicator of someone’s ability to read and write.)

–Chip Wood

Wisconsin Supreme Court Upholds Governor Walker’s Union Law

The Wisconsin Supreme Court voted 4-3 to uphold the union law.In what is being reported as a major victory for Republicans in Wisconsin, the State’s Supreme Court voted to uphold a law that will take away many collective bargaining privileges from public employees in the State.

Fox News reports that the high court in the Badger State voted 4-3 to uphold Governor Scott Walker’s plan. The court said that a judge in a lower court overstepped her bounds when she voided the law. Specifically, they said that the judge did not have the authority to become involved in the process of legislation.

Walker said that by upholding the law, the Supreme Court will allow the State to tackle its $6.3 billion budget shortfall.

“The Supreme Court’s ruling provides our state the opportunity to move forward together and focus on getting Wisconsin working again,” he said.

The Associated Press reports that the decision came through shortly before the Wisconsin Assembly was expected to start discussing the State budget.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson dissented, along with Justices Ann Walsh Bradley and Patrick Crooks. The majority was comprised of Justices David Prosser, Michael Gableman, Annette Ziegler and Patience Roggensack, reports Fox News.

Representative Weiner Stepping Down (Finally)

The sexting scandal surrounding Representative Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) may soon die out, as reports emerged that he would, indeed, step down.

“Representative Anthony D. Weiner has told House leaders and friends that he plans to resign his seat after coming under growing pressure from his Democratic colleagues to leave the House, said a top Democratic official and two people told of Mr. Weiner’s plans,” reported The New York Times, which broke the story Thursday morning.

The Congressman has come under increasing fire from his own party this week, as even more lewd photos were released and more of his alleged cyber-mistresses came forward. Among his detractors were President Barack Obama and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who both said Weiner needed to resign.

The House Ethics Committee previously opened an inquiry into Weiner’s behavior; since he resigned, this will likely be closed.

“The top Democratic official said Anthony Weiner called Representative Nancy Pelosi and Representative Steve Israel last night while they were at the White House picnic to inform them he had decided to resign on Thursday,” the article read. “

Rep. Weiner officially announced his resignation during a press conference in Brooklyn on Thursday.

Democratic Congressman Weiner To Resign Amid Lurid Photo Scandal

Congressman Anthony Weiner is reportedly leaving office.Embattled Representative Anthony Weiner (D-NY) will resign, according to published reports.

The Congressman came under fire when a lurid photo of himself appeared on the Internet. After initially claiming that his Twitter account had been hacked, Weiner fessed up to the online activity. He originally said he would remain in office when he admitted to the scandal, but sources told The New York Times that the lawmaker would resign from office.

A number of legislators from both sides of the aisle had called on Weiner to step down from his post.

“Our caucus understands our concern for the rights of the individual member, but also our higher responsibility to our country to uphold a high ethical standard in the Congress of the United States,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said, reports ABC News.

Fox News reports that the House Ethics Committee began a preliminary inquiry into Weiner’s online activities and that it could have blossomed into a full investigation had he not reportedly chosen to resign.

Report: Large Donors Get Lofty Posts In Obama Administration

Many large donors to Obama have received government posts.A recent report from iWatch News found that many prominent donors to Barack Obama during his 2008 Presidential campaign have received lofty government appointments and their companies have received millions of dollars from the stimulus.

According to the news source, almost 200 of the Democratic President’s largest donors have either received large government contracts or jobs within the Administration, or they have been invited to elite White House events.

Part of Obama’s Presidential campaign involved railing against special interests, but the new report from iWatch — which is part of the nonprofit Center for Public Integrity — casts doubt on whether the President has followed through on his promise.

Specifically, iWatch found that 184 of 556 donors or their spouses received appointments in the Obama Administration. These donors, who raised funds ranging from $50,000 to more than $500,000, have been dubbed “bundlers” by the media.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney denied allegations that donations had anything to do with the appointments, saying that “our ethical standards are unmatched by any previous administration,” reports Fox News.

Finding Water In The Home

What would you do if you suddenly found that water was no longer flowing to your home and wouldn’t be for some time?

Hopefully, you have stored some water to last your family for a few days at least (two gallons per day, per person). But if not, you need to look around your home for potential sources of water for the short-term while you make plans to deal with the situation long-term.

There are actually more sources of water in the home than you might think. If the public water system has not been contaminated, you can drain much of the water from your plumbing system.

About 30 to 60 gallons can be found in your water heater (depending on the size of the water heater). There is a drain at the bottom that allows you to access the water. Turn the water heater off, and allow the water in it to cool. Then drain it into clean containers. Sometimes, the first gallon or two will contain rust or sediment that has settled at the bottom. Discard it, if necessary. Better yet, filter it through coffee filters, rags or towels.

If there is a chance the public system was contaminated, treat the water with chlorine, iodine or water-purification tablets, or boil it. Otherwise, it should be fine to drink right out of the tank.

There is also clean water in the storage tank (not the bowl) of your toilets. Treat the storage-tank water before using it.

If you have an aquarium, it contains water you can use, once it has been treated.

Remember, a survival situation is no time to be squeamish. You have to do the things necessary to survive. Using water from your home will buy you a little time to find a more permanent source of water if the catastrophe is going to be a long-term situation.

Choice Administration Jobs, Contracts, Meetings for Obama’s Megadonors

One of President Barack Obama’s first campaign promises during the 2008 election was that he would work to eliminate the influence of moneyed political players, who had “turned our government into a game only they can afford to play.” Yet some of the President’s biggest campaign donors have since landed choice jobs, contracts and private meetings with the Obama Administration.

An iWatch News investigation into the White House’s campaign contributors revealed “nearly 200 of his biggest donors have landed plum government jobs and advisory posts, won federal contracts worth millions of dollars for their business interests or attended numerous elite White House meetings and social events,” according to a POLITICO article.

“In filling these posts, the administration looks for the most qualified candidates who represent Americans from all walks of life,” White House spokesman Eric Schultz told POLITICO. “Being a donor does not get you a job in this administration, nor does it preclude you from getting one.”

However, the investigation found that “nearly 80 percent of those who collected more than $500,000 for Obama took ‘key administration posts,’ as defined by the White House. More than half the 24 ambassador nominees… raised $500,000.”

These donors are known as “bundlers,” pooling donations from fundraising networks to avoid the Federal individual contribution limits of $2,500.

“Public Citizen found in 2008 that President George W. Bush had appointed about 200 bundlers to administration posts over his eight years in office. That is roughly the same number Obama has appointed in a little more than two years,” the article read.

The Lucky Seven

You had a better night than I did Monday night. It’s not that watching the Republican candidates try to convince a crowd of New Hampshire voters of their bona fides isn’t a worthwhile endeavor, but Presidential debates are inherently flawed. Any single-party debate is going to lack a certain honesty, because each candidate wants to exemplify the party’s ideals. In this case, it was a race to see who was the most Republican Republican.

But it’s my job to examine those aspirants to the highest office in the land, vet them carefully and then make cheap jokes at their expense. Barring a surprise entry by a hitherto undeclared juggernaut of a candidate, the next President of the United States was onstage in Manchester Monday night. So it was a hot night of debate-watching for Ben. Luckily for me, Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota is seriously easy to look at. She’s attractive enough that I’m surprised Ed Schultz hasn’t called her a “slut” yet.

Meanwhile, John King was there with the hard-hitting questions. Otherwise, I would have no idea where former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney stands on chicken wings. I know I could never offer my precious ballot to some mild-wing-eating pantywaist. Despite King’s insightful questions, a few surprises popped up in the process. Among them: The GOP candidates are evidently playing nice — for now. None of the attendees took a shot at their fellow Oval Office seekers.

King even tried to force the issue, challenging for Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty on his “Obamneycare” remark from Sunday morning. Sorry, John, nothing doing. Granted, with President Barack Obama and his liberal accomplices offering reams of material, there’s no time left to attack each other.

And they are clearly cognizant of the conservative movement’s strength. Even Romney blew kisses to the Tea Party. When abortion rights popped up, the candidates engaged in a rhetorical brawl to out-pro-life each other. At one point, I thought Bachmann might come out for the rights of unconceived fetuses.

All the candidates recognize the need to pry the fingers of government regulation off the throats of economic progress. The National Labor Relations Board’s efforts to stop the Boeing plant in South Carolina as payback to the Democrats’ union thug cronies were execrable. I have to admit I missed which candidate called for the end of the NLRB. I was in the kitchen, distracted by a Krispy Kreme Cookies-and-Kreme™ doughnut. I’m not apologizing (it was cookies and awesome!), but whoever said it got cookies-and-awesome applause from me.

With Obama and the Democrats doing everything for illegal aliens but handing them a fruit basket when they reach Laredo, Texas, all of the candidates agreed immigration reform is an absolute necessity. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich gave the most reasoned response, including a jocular-yet-logical plan for the Department of Homeland Security.

As for foreign policy, all of the candidates offered solid stances for a strong American global image. Former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania offered an especially strong opinion on Obama, the world citizen: “He has embraced our enemies.” Well, he might not have embraced them, but I do think they are past passing notes in study hall.

Businessman Herman Cain faltered when King asked him about his comments regarding hiring Muslims, but he righted the ship when he noted that Faisal Shahzad — aka “The Times Square Bomber” — admitted he lied when he took the citizenship oath.

Meanwhile, Representative Ron Paul of Texas stood firm on his borderline isolationist beliefs. Paul boasts an academic understanding of geopolitics. However, his professorial demeanor needs work.

As far as each of the debaters is concerned, Obamacare is just waiting in line for its seat in front of the death panel. The only candidate who had real vulnerability on the issue was Romney, who played it off fairly well with his Obama-should-have-called-me;-I-could-have-told-him-what-doesn’t-work excuse.

I thought Gingrich probably turned in the best performance. But I still think his campaign’s personnel troubles, combined with his inexplicable “right-wing social engineering” smear of the budget proposed by Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, may have slashed his tires before he left the parking lot.

As I mentioned earlier, debates are hardly the best candidate showcases. But if Monday’s show in Manchester taught me anything, it’s that Obama and his minions should probably have stepped away from their millionaire non-fundraising fundraisers at the White House. Had they done so, they might have discovered that Obama is in serious trouble.

Has The TSA Become An Occupying Army?

On Wednesday, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), along with Federal, State and local agencies, conducted a scheduled security exercise designed to increase security in the Kentucky-Ohio-West Virginia area.

“The participating teams are composed of a variety of TSA assets including federal air marshals, canine teams, inspectors and bomb appraisal officers. They will be joined by state and local law enforcement officials to supplement existing resources, provide detection and response capabilities,” read an article on The Marietta Timeswebsite.

“The exercise not only enhances security throughout the region; it gives TSA and our security partners the opportunity to work cooperatively,” TSA Columbus Federal Security Director Donald Barker told the paper. “This work increases our preparedness to respond in case of an emergency.”

It remains unclear as to whether the exercises represent an ability of the TSA to Federalize local law enforcement.

Researchers Discover Possible New Method For Obesity Treatment

Researchers discover possible new method for obesity treatmentMammals have two types of fat: calorie-storing white fat that turns up as flab, and beneficial calorie-burning brown fat that lies deeper in the body and in lower quantity.

A team of researchers at Harvard University Medical School recently found that brown fat can be grown in a lab, providing hope for a new treatment for obesity.

“We demonstrated that brown fat burns up a substantial number of calories,” said lead author Aaron Cypess. “We have an organ in our body whose job it is to generate heat and burn calories.”

Previously, the medical community believed that brown fat was present in only infants and small mammals, but then researchers discovered that adults have deposits of the substance at the front of the neck and the chest as well as marbled throughout other regions of the body. They found that the exact location of brown fat varies from person to person.

While the authors noted that increasing an individual’s amount of brown fat may help the person burn more calories, people who are overweight or obese would likely still need to eat a healthy diet and get plenty of exercise in order to reach a healthy weight.

Can Cops In Your State Conduct A Warrantless Search Of Your Cell Phone?

Police officers across the United States are testing the boundaries of the Fourth Amendment, routinely conducting warrantless searches of arrestees’ cell phones. Despite public outcry against it, many State courts are upholding the practice.

For example, CNN reported that in January, the California Supreme Court decided it is legal for officers to search the cell phones of arrested persons for incriminating evidence, without court approval. Similar decisions have been recently made by courts in Florida and Georgia. However, the Ohio Supreme Court barred warrantless cell phone searches.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a civil rights advocacy group, is fighting the California decision, and has filed an amicus brief in the Oregon case of James Tyler Nix.

“Forty minutes after the arrest, without a warrant, an investigator fished through the suspect’s cell phone looking for evidence related to his alleged crime. Law enforcement officials claim they didn’t need a warrant because the search was ‘incident to arrest’ — an exception to the warrant requirement intended to allow officers to perform a search for weapons or to prevent evidence from being destroyed in exigent circumstances,” the article read.

“This is an empty excuse from the police — the suspect was in custody and unable to destroy evidence on his cell phone,” EFF Senior Staff Attorney Marcia Hofmann told CNN.

The article claimed police are often taking the initiative to conduct warrantless cell phone searches, leaving the legality of the practice to be later upheld or overturned by appellate courts.

Is Switzerland A Role Model For Democracy?

The world economy is in a very fragile state, despite the fact that world gross domestic product is growing at a rate of about 4.3 percent this year. Most of the growth comes from emerging markets like China, Brazil and India.

While these emerging nations have a lot of economic potential for the coming decades, most of them will have to deal with their own specific problems in the years ahead. What differentiates these nations from the West is they typically have much lower levels of debt; most of them have accumulated large savings surpluses. This is in sharp contrast to the West, especially Europe and the United States, where governments have accumulated large deficits by chronic overspending on social security, all sorts of subsidies and/or military and defense costs.

This is a very dangerous trend that can’t go on forever. Actually, I think we are witnessing the turning point right now and that coming years will bring huge changes to these economies. This will most likely result in a severe devaluation of their currencies and socioeconomic tensions. Remember, the euro and the U.S. dollar make up almost 80 percent of the world’s currency reserves, a percentage that will have to drop significantly in coming years.

In a world of ideal economics, these nations would address their problems by making structural adjustments to their economies, making investments that tend to increase true economic value and cutting spending on things that don’t make sense and only destroy value. However, this might be wishful thinking. One does not need to be a genius to see that the sovereign debt problem will, at least partially, be solved by a forced currency devaluation, meaning that the central banks, such as the Federal Reserve in the U.S. and the European Central bank in Europe, will continue their very expansionary monetary policies.

Despite the many advantages of democracy, there is tendency for politicians to overpromise, overspend and underdeliver in the long term. This results in huge deficits that must eventually be paid, either through higher taxes or significantly devaluing currency. In a democracy, governments eventually become too big and too powerful and spend too much money. Therefore, more and more people become directly or indirectly dependent on the government. That’s when a nation becomes a welfare state. The larger and more centralized a government becomes, the higher the risk that it will lead to a real disaster in the long run.

It is absolutely crucial that a democratic system maintain self-correcting mechanisms by keeping government size and control at reasonable levels. However, people must also be realistic about what they can expect from a government.

This is a long-term trend that can be observed in many Western countries with far-reaching consequences for people. From an investment-management point of view, currency diversification should be the key focus in coming years. It will be an almost ideal environment for precious metals and hard currencies.

In a previous article, I compared the performance of various foreign currencies against each other and against the two major currencies, the U.S. dollar and the euro. Many people say they do not understand currency markets. Keep it simple and look at foreign currencies like stock prices. The prices of currencies measure the performance of countries, just as the prices of stocks measure the performance of companies.

Looking at currency markets, especially their short-term volatility, people tend to forget about the main forces driving currencies. The chart below shows how the most common foreign currencies have performed in recent years. The best and most stable currency in the world has been the Swiss franc.

 

World Currency Comparisons

With a lot of money-printing going on in the world, it is not a surprise that the Swiss franc has kept outperforming all major currencies. The Swiss franc is, in my opinion, the strongest of all currencies. The chart below shows how much the U.S. dollar lost against the Swiss franc in the past 40 years.

 

In order to understand why the Swiss franc is such a strong currency, many factors need to be considered and understood.

Typically known for its famous chocolate, cheese and for being one of the world’s largest banking centers, Switzerland has much more to offer. Switzerland is a small country with a size of only 16,000 square miles. That’s only about one-quarter the size of Florida. With a population of about 8 million, it is also among the least-populated countries in Europe.

Despite being located in the heart of Europe, Switzerland is one of the very few European countries that have not become a member of the European Union. Because of that, the Swiss franc — not the euro — is Switzerland’s currency. Also, the Swiss National Bank is completely independent.

In order to understand why Switzerland has never joined the European Union, one needs to understand the culture and mentality of its people. Switzerland consists of 26 individual states called “cantons.” All of these cantons have a relatively high degree of independence, as do the smaller communities within each canton.

The roots of the country go back to 1291, when most of today’s territory was controlled by the Habsburg dynasty. Many people suffered under the Habsburg regime, since they didn’t have many rights and had to pay high taxes, usually in the form of agriculture goods, to their rulers. In 1291, three cantons started the Old Swiss Confederacy and began to fight for the freedom of its people and an end to the dark days of tyranny. More and more cantons joined the Confederacy.

In 1815, Switzerland’s independence was recognized by most other European countries. While the need for some centralized government was understood, Swiss people have always remained critical toward large, centralized governments. Democracy in the Swiss understanding means citizens and communities should act responsibly and take care of their own affairs.

Switzerland has also remained neutral during the world wars and kept a very large army for most of the past century. Today, about 100,000 soldiers serve in the army, which is still large, given the relatively small size of the country. The Swiss army is not and has never been a professional army; it is mandatory for Swiss men to join the army and serve the country.

I remember my days in the army. I was only 20 years old, and at that time I didn’t really like it or understand the sense of it. Only later did I start to realize what a great school of life my time in the army was, and how much it taught me about freedom and responsibility.

The events of recent years, especially the events in Europe, such as the war in former Yugoslavia or the increasing tensions among European countries, have made me realize things are a lot less stable than we would like. I think the strong sense for neutrality and freedom has remained one of the reasons Switzerland has always been so stable.

Another important factor is the kind of democratic system we have. The Swiss Parliament consists of two chambers, the Council of States and the National Council. The Federal Council, the “Bundesrat,” consists of seven members, each elected for a term of four years. What is unique about this direct democracy is that people can challenge any decision or law with a referendum — all it takes is for 100,000 people to sign such a referendum. This is a very important corrective mechanism in a democracy.

Switzerland was able to stay out of the two world wars by remaining independent. Despite the relatively large size of the Swiss army at that time, it would have been difficult to stop an enemy in case of an attack, especially from Nazi Germany. However, the Germans knew they would need to pay a very high price if they attacked Switzerland. Switzerland’s army was and is well-trained to fight and defend the country — especially in the mountains, which have hundreds of bunker systems, some so large that they look like little villages inside of mountains.

The fact that Switzerland’s infrastructure wasn’t destroyed in any of the world wars also meant the country had a competitive advantage during the rebuilding period after the war. Many large corporations established their international headquarters in Switzerland, and many have stayed here ever since. Today, the main advantages for corporations are the almost-perfect geographical location, a business-friendly tax system and the high level of internationalization in the economy. The tax system for corporations and residents is attractive no matter its level of profit or income. The European Union has called Switzerland’s low tax rates unfair, since taxes are much lower than in the European Union. How can a tax system, which encourages competition and ensures efficient use of taxpayers’ money be unfair?

This conflict with the European Union shows the fundamentally different approach Switzerland has taken. It is a country in which each canton and each community has a high degree of fiscal responsibility. It’s where people make the government, not vice versa.

I think many countries, especially large Western nations, can learn a lot from the Swiss system of democracy. Many Western nations are finding themselves in a difficult position today. The chronic overspending and wasting of tax money has resulted in a very heavy debt burden, which has become almost unbearable. Governments should always work in the best interest of their people and act diligently and responsibly when spending tax money. Governments should be lean and efficient, working for their people and not against them.

While it is in the best interest of any nation to have a social-security system that provides help to people who really need it, overextending welfare will give the wrong incentive to people who should never depend on a government to help them.

Bipartisan Congressional Group Sues Obama Over Libyan War

Representatives Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) and Walter Jones (R-N.C.) led a bipartisan group of 10 Congressional lawmakers filing a suit in Federal court against President Barack Obama and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, challenging the commitment of the United States to war in Libya without the Constitutionally required approval of Congress.

The suit “seeks injunctive and declaratory relief to protect the Plaintiffs and the country from the violation of the War Powers Resolution resulting from the Obama Administration’s established policy that the President does not require congressional authorization to use military force in wars like the one in Libya,” according to a copy of the filed complaint.

Other plaintiffs in the suit include Representatives Howard Coble (R-N.C.), John Duncan (R-Tenn.), Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.), John Conyers (D-Mich.) Ron Paul (R-Texas), Michael Capuano (D-Mass.), Tim Johnson (R-Ill.) and Dan Burton (R-Ind.).

The complaint maintains that “the term ‘Libyan War’ means U.S. involvement in combat operations in Libya. Although the Administration has insisted that these operations do not amount to a war, the Plaintiffs assert that the U.S. is engaged in war under domestic and international definitions of war.”

Media Parrot Obama Error

When the White House announced President Barack Obama’s trip to Puerto Rico, it mistakenly claimed he would be the first President to visit the territory since John F. Kennedy. In fact, two Presidents had visited Puerto Rico since JFK — President Lyndon B. Johnson and President Gerald Ford, respectively.

The error, which could have easily been corrected by a White House staffer, was reported by the mainstream media as fact.

“CNN, NPR and others accepted (the error) as fact and began reporting it. Without checking the White House’s spin, many media organizations highlighted Obama’s visit and failed to find that the White House was wrong,” read a column on the Huffington Post.

“The mistake could have been chalked up to one big error if ‘the best political team on television’ wasn’t so Johnny on the spot with fact-checking Palin, Boehner, Bush, Romney, Ryan, Gingrich, etc.”

The column also reported that, when confronted with the error by bloggers, both NPR and CNN failed to correct it.

“It’s… troubling to see media outlets like NPR and CNN not only fail to fact-check, but ignore the truth when confronted with it,” the column read.

Speaker Boehner Gives Obama Until Friday To Justify Actions In Libya

John Boehner recently sent a letter to the President regarding Libya.House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) warned President Barack Obama that he might end up being in violation of the Constitution for the military actions in Libya.

Boehner said that Obama may end up violating the War Powers Resolution for the military deployment, which has not been approved by Congress, reports The Washington Times. The Congressman gave the President until Friday to justify his commitment of troops to the North African nation.

“The Constitution requires the president to ‘take care that the laws be faithfully executed,’ and one of those laws is the War Powers Resolution, which requires an approving action by Congress or withdrawal within 90 days from the notification of a military operation,” Boehner said in the letter, reports the news source.

Sunday will be the 90th day since Obama committed troops to Libya, according to the news provider.

National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said that the Obama Administration was in the process of preparing information for both the House and the Senate.

Vietor said that the information will include “our legal analysis with regard to the War Powers Resolution,” reports USA Today.

Perry Criticizes Administration’s Stance On Abortion, Stem Cells

The Governor of Texas was critical of Obama's abortion stance.Texas Governor Rick Perry, a Republican, recently criticized the Barack Obama Administration for its stance on abortion and stem cell research.

In Los Angeles on June 12, Perry addressed a mostly Hispanic crowd of about 5,000 and railed against the President’s stance on reproductive decisions, according to The Associated Press.

The Governor said that the Obama Administration’s handling of stem cell research was “turning the remains of unborn children into nothing more than raw material.”

Obama has slightly bypassed a 1996 law that prevents the government from spending money on work that damages embryos by allowing the harvesting of stem cells to be done with private money and then using money from taxpayers to fund work on the cells, reports the news source.

Reuters reports that Perry also said that since Roe v. Wade, “50 million children have lost their chance at life — a tragic legacy of judicial activism and a stark reminder that our culture and our country are still in peril.”

The AP reports that Perry had earlier dismissed talk about his potential run for the White House but has also said that he was going to “think about it.”

An Annual Patriotic Tradition

On June 14, 1777, Congress passed a resolution that read: “Resolved, that the flag of the thirteen United States shall be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the Union be thirteen stars, white on a blue field, representing a new constellation.”

The colors used in the flag were the same as those used in the Great Seal, the creation of which Congress authorized on July 4, 1776. In reporting to Congress about the Great Seal, Charles Thompson, Secretary of the Continental Congress, said: “The colors of the pales (the vertical stripes) are those used in the flag of the United States of America; White signifies purity and innocence, Red, hardiness and valor, and Blue, the color of the Chief (the broad band above the stripes) signifies vigilance, perseverance & justice.”

In 1877, Congress passed another resolution, urging that U.S. flags be flown on all public buildings annually on June 14 to mark the flag’s birthday.

In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed “that throughout the nation and if possible in every community “ June 14 should be observed as Flag Day. And on Flag Day in 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a bill adding the phrase “under God” to the pledge of allegiance.

Flag Day was yesterday.  I hope you remembered to fly the Stars and Stripes at your home and place of business. If not, make a note to do so next year, would you?

–Chip Wood