Let's Try Something New!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Can you guess who this is? Yes, it’s your old friend, *me*! I decided that since I am the daughter of a welder, it wouldn’t hurt for me to learn how to weld. It’s kind of tricky to start out with. First I have to find my brother’s gloves (Did I grab the right gloves: are they my brother’s or Goliath’s?); then I put on the welding hood. Next, I place 4 pieces of metal in the jig. I grab the welding “gun”, aim it at the spot to be welded--and accidentally hit the “trigger,” the gloves are so big that I’m a bit clumsy (and now I’m partially blinded). Next time, I’m more careful to keep my fingers away from the trigger till I’m ready. I take aim, and shake my hood down over my eyes--or at least try to--the hood goes flying across the room: I didn’t tighten it correctly. When did welding hoods start finding wings? I wonder. Not easily dissuaded, I take off my gloves, put the welding hood back on, tighten it correctly (no more winged escapes!), put my gloves back on, take aim again, shake my head three times (finally the hood comes down), and pull the trigger--nice, a good weld! I make four welds, pull back the clamps, grab a pry bar, pry my handiwork out of the jig, and start the whole process over--this time, minus most of the mistakes. In spite of my initial problems, I find welding to be very interesting and fun!

Moral of the story? Don’t be afraid to try new things; you may make many mistakes, but never give up!

And when it comes to more the difficult challenges of life, always remember: "If God be for us, who can be against us?"

Town Hall Meeting with Senator Grassley

Friday, February 24, 2012

On Wednesday, the 22nd, I went to Senator Grassley’s town hall meeting in Iowa Falls. It was very interesting to listen to our neighbors' concerns and the Senator's answers.

The truck driver said that there were so many regulations he'd have to quit if the government created any more--he could barely load and unload his pigs for market without violating a regulation.
The doctor complained of too many regulations: it's illegal for him to let his housekeeper clean his office; he has to sign and date each documents 3 times, and he has to keep track of every pill in his office--if he is not able to account for each and every pill he will get a $30,000 fine.
The home health-care provider complained of a mountain of regulations: her patients must have a doctor-signed statement 30 days before they need care if they want home-health care provided.
The egg farmer complained of unnecessary regulations: "They want me to be nice to my chickens; of course I'm nice to my chickens. I have to be if I want them to produce eggs, so I can stay in business, but the government..."

Then, there were several people complaining of problems with Social Security and Medicare. I asked Senator Grassley if, considering all the problems of Social Security, he would work to make it possible for young people (me!!) to opt-out. He said that if they let me opt-out, everyone would opt out; and no one would be left to pay for the old people. I said that if everyone would opt-out it must be a really bad system, and that maybe we could take care of the old people by cutting a few departments and bringing troops home from some of the 130 or so countries. The Senator said that we could use the money from those cuts for a lot of things...

There were also a couple people very concerned about the national debt, and the government's spending problems.

I think the senator answered the questions well; his most basic answer was "If you think you're frustrated, think of how frustrated I am in Washington!"

Of course, Senator Grassley’s politics aren’t perfect--scarcely anyone's are--but if we sent more politicians like Senator Grassley to Washington--and if more politicians would listen to the simple wisdom of these good Iowa farmers asking for a little freedom and a little less regulation--I think Washington, D.C. and this whole country would be a much better place.

Unalienable Rights?

Sunday, February 19, 2012

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness…

For these rights, the Founders pledged their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor. Throughout the 238 years since, many men and women have claimed their God-given rights. But, unfortunately, some Americans now face discrimination of a type not seen before in the history of our great country.

Those discriminated against are skillful, alert, knowledgeable, and healthy American citizens who have done nothing illegal, but they cannot obtain drivers’ licenses (Iowa Code, section 321.182). As pariahs, it is illegal for them to marry (Iowa Code). Employment is closed to them, and revenues from self-employment/entrepreneurship must not exceed $400 if they are to escape the icy glare of federal penalties (IRS Code). They are young, talented, strong, and beautiful, but they are the untouchables. They are the numberless Americans. For the laws of our country have been re-written to declare:
We hold these truths to be evident, that only those men and women holding social security numbers are equal, that they have been endowed by the state with certain privileges, that among these are life (to the extent of everything needed to sustain it over $400 per year), liberty (to use one’s faculties in work, to enjoy the fruit of one’s labors, and marry), and the pursuit of happiness (at any speed greater than 5, 10, or 15 mph--depending on your greatest speed walking, running, or biking).

A Social Security Number? Do you mean to tell me that the inhabitants of these United States have made the Creator’s gifts of the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness contingent on whether or not the young adult obtains a number, joining a system which itself predicts its own insolvency by 2038 and takes about 15% of a person’s life wages? Do you mean to tell me that the parents of these young Americans have so little faith in the abilities of their progeny that they would as soon see them die as opt-out of a degenerate social program designed 80 years ago by a man whose bones are now dry in his grave? Do they believe progress is impossible? Will they strangle the fresh youthful vigor and revitalizing initiative that could lead civilization on to heights of freedom and security? That is my nightmare, and I hope someone can wake me and show me that it really is just a bad dream--not the cold, hard truth.

But I also have a good dream. It’s called the American dream. And that dream is freedom and equality before the law.

Congress, some people have asked you for food stamps. You’ve given it to them. Some people have asked you for free healthcare and medicine. You’ve given it to them. Some people have asked for federal funding of the arts, museums, and schools. You’ve given it to them. Recently, some have asked for money to research how chess might help with executive control and academic achievement, and you, through the U.S. Dept. of Education have granted them $1,049,094. I don’t ask for a penny. I ask only for my unalienable, God-given rights: Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. End this discrimination based on numbers. Let young people opt out of Social Security without becoming 2nd class citizens. Set the young Americans free at last.

Death, Where is Your Victory?

Saturday, February 18, 2012

It was a sunny Saturday morning, but for someone, it was all too soon irreversibly darkened. Traffic piled up as workers cleared away the broken glass. As I passed the scene of the collision, it was apparent that any survivors were badly injured. The smaller car was decimated, and anyone who had been in it was sure to be in critical condition. How many times have we passed such a scene on the highway? Cancer and heart attacks sadden us as we lose friends and family. Life is fleeting, and from fate the young and strong are by no means exempt. Where is your eternal destiny? There is a heaven and there is a hell. You will stand before the judgment seat of Christ, and neither you or I have any guarantee of tomorrow.

We were once again reminded of how fleeting our lives are after we attended the Cedar Rapids Leather Jackets chess tournament in Cedar Rapids on February 4th. I had a rather poor tournament, winning only 1 out of 4 matches, but, regardless, I enjoyed myself thoroughly with my father and brother. There was pretty good attendance at the tournament, and it was good to see old chess friends there--including IASCA president Steve Young. Just before we left, I asked him how his tournament had gone: “One and a half points,” he told me. I told him that was pretty good; I only got one point. And then we left, never to see him again. Monday morning I sleepily logged on to Facebook to see the startling headlines posted on the Iowa Scholastic Chess wall by Jim Hodina: “It is with a sad heart that I share news of the passing of Steve Young. Steve was a wonderful organizer and coach for scholastic chess. Steve was also serving as the IASCA President. I understand that Steve passed away Saturday evening while at home from a heart attack. Steve played in a tournament I directed on that day and he appeared well. So this was sudden…” Yes, we will miss you, Mr. Young!

I had a rather close call myself in 2006 when on the way home from a concert--and only one mile from my home--the car I was in was totaled, but my life was spared. Each time we visit one of our nursing homes where we sing, a few of our old friends are missing--at Scenic Manor yesterday, the activity director told us that 2 of the residents had died earlier in the day. Friends, I want to see you again someday in heaven. I have accepted Jesus as my personal Savior, and to live or die, I am not afraid. I am ready when my time comes. Are you?

“O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?”

My family and I have an unusual pastime. On one of my brother’s birthdays, we visited the family graveyard in Union, Iowa where my great great great grandpa, Civil War veteran Eli Carson, and many others are buried. Often when we go on bike rides, we visit a peaceful little cemetery and see who can find the oldest gravestone. Today, we visited the grave of our friend Esther Pitts, who lived with us from 2002 till her death in 2009 at age 109. Last time we were at the Eldora cemetery, as I was wishing I could have met some of those people that I know no more about than date of birth and date of death, it struck me that the cemetery would be a really neat place to be when the resurrection happens. It didn’t occur to me at the time what was the most probable reason I would just happen to be in a cemetery when the Lord comes again…but what I really want is to be alive and watching. John 5:8-29 says, “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.”

Death is a sobering word. The last enemy to be defeated is death. But it too will have to flee as all our other enemies have--at the name of Jesus! For “He will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over all people, and the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the LORD hath spoken it. And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the LORD; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation” (Isaiah 25:7-9). The Bible says that the hour is coming when all they that are in the graves will hear his voice and will arise… We Christians have nothing to fear in death. The sting of death is sin, but God has given us the victory through Jesus Christ our Lord. With Betsy ten Boom, we can say that there is no pit so deep that God is not deeper still. Betsy died in Ravensbruck, a Nazi concentration camp, but God was with her; and she was a thousand times more free than Hitler or Goering, servants--slaves--of sin. We’re talking about another type of liberty here--inner liberty--it’s a liberty none can shackle, a candle that not even death can dim. When the Son sets you free, you are free indeed. We have the victory over death through faith in Jesus Christ.

“Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.
Believest thou this?”
--John 11:26

Field Trip to the Tanner's Shop

Thursday, February 16, 2012

We walked into a little old building in the small town of Wellsburg. In the front room, the young tanner (I’d say, in his early 20s) and his dad greeted us and let us feel, smell, and look at various pelts and hides. There were red and gray fox, coyote, mink, opossum, skunk, beaver, raccoon, cow, and buffalo hides--all very beautiful, soft, and fluffy. Many of the pelts were so complete that we wondered how the tanner got the animal out of them. We were soon to find out. He led us into the back room where we saw a stack of inside-out raccoon skins stretched over boards. How on earth does one get inside-out raccoons? We were soon to find that out also…

Three raccoons were hanging from a nearby scaffold, The tanner took one down and brought it to a table where he sharpened his knife. First, he cut the hind legs free, then did two perpendicular cuts on the belly between the hind legs. A special mechanism quickly freed the tail, and soon the whole hind quarters were “un-coated.” Then the tanner pressed a button which lowered a hanger-like apparatus with two choke-chains hanging from it. These choke-chains were attached to the raccoon’s hind legs, and the tanner proceeded to pull the pelt down (with gloved hands) toward the raccoon’s head, pressing a button to raise the hanger as he made progress. Soon the raccoon and its coat parted ways, and the tanner pulled a retractable table that looked a lot like an ironing board out of the wall. On this table, he used an interesting scrapper (or two-edged sword) to scrape all the fat off the pelt. Afterwards, he tacked the inside-out raccoon skin to a board, and it was ready to be added to the stack to dry. Once the pelts dry, the tanner explained, he takes them to a furrier’s auction where he sells them to the big furriers. The pelts that he processes himself are put into a rotating cylinder filled with water and chemicals (called a pickle) for about 3 days. After that, they go into a big “tumbler,” a drum that looks a bit like a Ferris wheel. The pelts tumble around in this contraption like clothes do in your dryer. The tanner made this tumbler out of plywood, and says that the mechanical part which makes the machine work was the most difficult part of the whole construction. A porcupine hide was hanging on the wall. The porcupine can’t go through the tumbler, he explained, so the hide isn’t as soft… “But I don’t think the customer who sent it in will be wanting to pet it anyway,” the tanner said as he and Papa inspected the hide for its quills. “I would like to do an alligator some day,” the tanner commented as we left the room. I studied the walls, shelves, and scaffolding of the shop as we left. Everything looked very neat, and gave me the impression of home-made… In any ordinary old Iowa shop, one might expect to enter and find old rusty toolboxes, rags, oil barrels, tractor tires, and living varmints, but here--between the golden lab, Harley, and the owners--those critters don’t have a chance! The demonstration in tanning was very interesting and informative, but the greatest lesson I re-learned is the importance of the “can-do” mentality. Those who are not afraid of work can get a lot done!

The tanner sent a few raccoon skins home with my mother, and she made a coon skin hat. The tanner liked the hat, so soon, the kitchen table was piled with pelts soon to become hats. One of the neatest creations my mother has sewn so far is the skunk/fox hat shown below.

Book Review: Bureaucracy

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Bureaucracy was written in 1944 by Ludwig von Mises, recognized as a prominent figure in the Austrian school of economics. Mises wrote this book only four years after fleeing Nazi Germany and immigrating to the United States.

In this book, von Mises explains the two types of management: bureaucratic management, which is both inevitable and inherent in government agencies such as the police department; and profit management, which is suitable and efficient in private business. “The capitalist system of production is an economic democracy in which every penny gives a right to vote. The consumers are the sovereign people” In contrast, the “so-called welfare state is in fact the tyranny of the rulers.” Bureaucracy has always existed in America in the administration of customs and of the foreign service, but what characterizes our time is the “expansion of the sphere of government interference with business and with many other items of the citizenry’s affairs.” And, according to Mises, that is the problem. The government should limit its activities to their proper sphere, including the national defense-- the first duty of government-- and leave businesses and individuals to do what they do best without needless rules and regulations that turn private businesses into bureaucracies.

Bureaucracy in business, Mises explains, is highly un-desirable since “Nobody can be at the same time a correct bureaucrat and an innovator. Progress is precisely that which the rules and regulations did not foresee; it is necessarily outside the field of bureaucratic activities.”

The State is not God, Mises emphasizes, speaking against what he calls “the fashionable philosophy of Statolatry;” but it sure tries to be: “You could revolt against a Bourbon king, and the French did it. This was, of course, a struggle of man against man. But you cannot revolt against the god State and his humble handy man the bureaucrat.” This trend toward “government omnipotence” would have been impossible, Mises notes, without the indoctrination of youth and the fact that a great part of voters are on the government payroll; thus, their representatives represent them, not as taxpayers, but as recipients of government salaries, subsidies, and welfare. However, the government cannot create happiness and abundance by a magic wand. It cannot give to anyone if it doesn’t take from someone. “Taxes, inflation, and credit expansion do not add anything to the available resources; they only make some people more prosperous to the extent that they make others poorer.”

Mises contrasts the rule of consumers (capitalism) to the “benevolent rule” of government guardianship, which he likens to the benevolent rule of a cattle breeder and concludes that “You cannot make a man happier by putting him under guardianship.”

This stultification brought on by government guardianship and a myriad of regulations is especially hard on the young. Under free-market capitalism there is every opportunity for success, and after a failure there is no reason for a “smart youngster” to despair. “Life is worth living because it is full of promise.” But under bureaucratization, the young have no illusions of their future: “[The young person] will enjoy security. But this security will be rather of the kind that the convict enjoys within the prison walls. He will never be free to make decisions and to shape his own fate. He will forever be a man taken care of by other people. He will never be a real man relying on his own strength.” The frustration young people felt was evidenced in youth movements in Germany (preceding World War I) and Italy (with the Fascist movement), but these were counterfeit rebellions, which were doomed because they were nothing but “confused expressions of uneasiness, without any clear ideas and definite plans.” The young people were “under the spell of socialist ideas” themselves and wanted first of all government jobs. When young people have nothing left to change and improve, when they are deprived of the opportunity of shaping their own fate, when their “only prospect is to start at the lowest rung of the bureaucratic ladder and to climb slowly in strict observance of the rules formulated by older superiors…this is more than a crises of the youth. It is a crises of progress and civilization. Mankind is doomed when the youths are deprived of the opportunity to remodel society according to their own fashion.”

Ludwig von Mises calls gullibility and the fading of the critical sense the most serious menace to the preservation of our civilization, and urges each citizen to educate himself in economics. Voting wisely, he says, is not a privilege, but a duty and moral responsibility. He calls for an unhampered labor market, claiming that allegedly pro-labor policies such as minimum wage laws cause chronic unemployment and that it is an “illusion to believe that government spending can create jobs for the unemployed, that is, for those who cannot get jobs on account of the labor unions’ or the government’s policies.” Mises explains, “Go right to the bottom of things is the main rule. Do not acquiesce in superficial explanations and solutions. Use your power of thinking and your critical abilities.” The opposition uses propaganda everywhere to convince the gullible, but “propaganda is always the propaganda of lies, fallacies, and superstitions. Truth does not need propaganda; it holds its own.” Democracy must be strenuously defended every day by people willing to learn enough to pass their own educated judgments on fundamental political and economic problems instead of depending on experts to do this for them.

There is no compromise: interventionism is a miry middle ground that sinks into socialism. It’s time to fight for liberty in the battlefield of public opinion.

Bureaucracy is a very interesting and educational work.

Book Review: Paris Underground

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Paris Underground, by Etta Shiber, was originally published in 1943. It is the story of two women, Etta (the author, a 50-year-old, widowed American) and her friend Kitty Beaurepos (a 40-year-old Englishwoman, French by marriage), who were living together in Paris when the Nazis invaded.

Hours before the Nazis invaded, Kitty and Etta joined the traffic-jammed highway in an effort to escape, but the German invaders caught up with everyone and ordered them back to Paris. On their way home, they met a young British soldier, hiding from the Germans. Etta could not stand the thought of the soldier, who resembled her deceased brother, being captured and shot by the Germans. She and Kitty stowed him away in their car’s luggage compartment and brought him to their 5-room apartment in Paris. Kitty got in touch with an old friend, M. Chancel, who had an organization for smuggling young men safely across the line of demarcation; and the soldier was soon safely back in England. Shortly thereafter, Kitty and Etta helped two prisoners escape from a prison hospital, and brought them to their Paris apartment. Chancel’s organization was uncovered by the Gestapo, and Chancel was forced to flee the country until he could grow a beard and create a new identity. So Kitty and Etta had a dilemma: how could they get the 2 soldiers out of the country? One of the soldiers had a leg wound, and as soon as he entered the apartment, he fainted, bleeding badly. The other soldier, who was healthy, and the servant girl tried to tend to him as he lay on the floor. Then the door bell rang. Etta’s heart stopped. She answered the door…and much to her relief, it was not the Gestapo! It was Henri Beaurepos, Kitty’s husband, who traveled much of the time and lived elsewhere. Immediately, Henri took charge of the situation and called a doctor from his own underground connections. He explained that he had crossed the line of demarcation himself 7 times already--crossing it was a breeze, and he had connections who could get the soldiers out for them. Soon, the sick soldier recovered from the brink of death, and both soldiers safely left the country.

Kitty and Etta met Father Christian, a young priest who had befriended many of the British soldiers that had been left behind at Dunkirk and were hiding in the woods. At that moment, he had four of these soldiers living with him in his part of the rectory--under the same roof as the Germans who had taken the greater part of the rectory to serve as their town headquarters. One of the soldiers had rigged up a microphone system to listen to the Nazis, and thus, they were able to warn their friends in the woods of upcoming German searches. Kitty and Etta took one of Father Christian’s boys back to their apartment. Then they learned that the death penalty had been decreed for anyone aiding British soldiers, but Kitty’s conscience wouldn’t let her stop saving lives. She told Etta, “I believe it was God who showed us that way. It would be sinful and criminal not to use our knowledge to save as many men as we can…How unimportant it would be to sacrifice one’s own life if by doing so one could save a hundred or perhaps a thousand others.” Etta could not dissuade Kitty, and she loved Kitty too much to leave; so they continued their work. Father Christian brought 3 or 4 soldiers to their apartment twice a week, and Kitty and Etta handed them over to escorts of Chancel’s men (Chancel had returned under the assumed name of Corbier and was smuggling young Frenchmen out of the country to join De Gaulle). These traveled, one with each British soldier, to Henri’s farmer friend, Tissier, who let them cross the border using his land. There were brilliant escapes and tricks played adroitly on the Gestapo. Then one evening, Etta noticed a 10,000 franc reward for reporting anyone aiding British soldiers. Kitty was gone on a long trip into free France to secure funds to continue their project. Etta walked through the apartment, searching for anything and everything incriminating and burning the evidence. The next day, there was a knock on the door.

Etta was taken to Gestapo headquarters and questioned. An hour later, Father Christian was also brought in. After questioning and a period of imprisonment, Etta was temporarily released. She was surprised and dismayed the next day when the French police called her to the police department for a traffic violation supposedly committed during the time she was in prison. It turned out that the French police were friends of Henri Beaurepos, and the real reason they had summoned her was because Henri wanted to speak with her; and the police department was the only place where he could do so out of the sight of the Nazis. Henri was worried about Kitty. He didn’t know where she was and had not been able to warn her that the Gestapo was looking for her. Etta gave him all the information she knew, and then Henri, Etta, and the police plotted to get Etta out of the country, away from her shadowing Gestapo agent. Then Henri left, embarking on a race with the Gestapo: who would find Kitty first? Just days later, the evening Etta was scheduled to escape, she walked past a subway station with her Gestapo shadow only to see *gasp* Chancel! She had unwittingly led the Gestapo right to him! He was arrested, and she was re-arrested. The Gestapo also found M. Tissier, and then they found Kitty before Henri could warn her. On their way to the trial, Kitty told Etta that she had given England back 150 lives and would only lose her own--a 150 to 1 victory. She was not terrified at the thought of death and could “look a bullet in the face and not be afraid. I have done my task. I have earned my rest.” At the trial, Father Christian told the Nazi judge, “I do not expect to find…any justice, in this court. But I know that in the end, divine justice will prevail; and the verdict will be pronounced, not against us, but against you, who presume to judge us.”

After a long winter in miserable prisons, Etta was exchanged since she was an American. Kitty, who was sentenced to death, was last heard of in a prison camp in Germany. Father Christian was taken out of prison by a couple officers on the day he was to be shot. An hour latter, the real officers arrived to take him…imagine the commotion at the prison!! The first officers were not at all Nazis, as was supposed, but workers of the British Intelligence Agency who intended to take Father Christian with them to Britain. Father Christian requested to stay behind, wanting his “extra life” to be spent rescuing more soldiers. When Etta left, he was working with an immense underground. Tissier and Chancel were each serving a few years of hard labor. The story of these brave men and women reminds me of the words of Jesus, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” God can give you that strength, and He will give it, when you need it. Etta says, “When God desires that we should act, He shows us the way, and tells us what to do--lest they die.”

If you are looking for excitement, suspense, tears, mystery, inspiration, and a true story of the misery, trials, bravery, wisdom, and joy of the unconquered hearts of a conquered nation, Paris Underground is the book for you.

“You will know the Truth, and the truth will set you free”
--John 8:32