Friday, February 8, 2013

We citizens of these United States of America , the greatest nation ever to grace the face of Planet Terra, live in a constitutional republic. We do not live in a democracy, it's a constitutional republic. Nowhere in any of our founding documents is the word "democracy" even used. Why. The Founders feared a democracy. Why. In a democracy there is no protection for the minority, any minority. In a democracy all it takes is 50 percent plus one of those voting to declare a victory over any issue at contest.

So what does that mean?

Democracy has been described by some as two wolves and a sheep voting on what's for dinner.

Our Founding Fathers studied the teachings and writings of those such as Descartes, Locke, Voltaire, Plato, Socrates, and many others. Plato believed that democracy was the first stage of tyranny because it depends on highly moral participants. Descartes believed morality is innate, that we're born with certain principles and knowledge. Locke believed we're each born with a blank slate for a mind, a mind full of mush it you will, that all knowledge is gained through experience and defined the concept of the social contract as it relates to government and political philosophy. And then there was Voltaire... Voltaire, who stated that democracy does nothing more than propagate the idiocy of the masses. He also gave us the expression "crush the infamous," referring to abuses of the people by the clergy and aristocracy of his day.

Hmm... the situations of Joe & Jane Schmuckatelli and political elitists or the angst exhibited by Karl Rove & Company toward those truly conservative interlopers they can't control all sound a bit familiar now.

Project Gutenberg and LibriVox can also be wonderful resources for those of us who've thrown away our televisions and enjoy riding around on our sissy tractors, or just riding up and down the road in general.

Our founding documents, both United States and Tennessee, specifically state there are natural rights endowed by our creator, unalienable and indefeasible rights that no man can take away, bastardize, or subvert. These rights are not granted by a handful of documents. They are guaranteed by these documents. There's a big difference, but perhaps there's also a reason our education system doesn't encourage critical thinking any more.

Two of our natural rights are the right to own property and the right, nay the obligation, to defend ourselves and our families, and these can be infringed upon by no man nor any government. Period.

Occasionally we have some politician or one of his myrmidons, a retired police chief for example, who will step forward and propose that we shouldn't attempt to defend ourselves, that in fact we should depend on others to defend us, that when we're in imminent danger we should just dial 911, the cavalry will arrive, and everything will be copacetic. To be sure, there are some we need to depend upon for certain defense. These would include our military to defend us from national enemies, firemen to protect our property, and cops to keep the peace, and carry a piece. But in the final analysis, our personal defense, the defense of our families and our property, is our own personal responsibility isn't it.

Personal defense can manifest itself in an infinite number of ways... pugilistics, any number of taikoocharoochi variants, proper use of a stick or a rock or a pencil or a radio antenna or anything else that's handy. When an individual is being physically attacked by someone who doesn't have his or her personal best interests at heart anything goes. There are no rules. There's only one acceptable outcome... to be the one who walks away. Period.

But personal defense is also a personal decision, one of the most personal of personal choices. It's also our individual responsibility to ensure that we can, and do, protect our family and our property isn't it.

Like the majority of citizens of this great nation, the true majority, not the majority of the loudest and most blovatious, I tend to my own business and leave others alone to tend to theirs... until someone tries to force their beliefs on me, do the grab-and-run deal with my wallet or other property, or do harm to me and those I hold dear.

Other than having a couple of uncles who were soldiers I know little about the Army. I chose to be a Marine where each and every one of us was charged with first being a rifleman, even those of us who were "Wing Wipers" in Marine Air. Every Marine is required to qualify with a rifle every year. Some commands require minimum levels of proficiency beyond just qualifying. Junior enlisted and NCOs are required to qualify only with a rifle. Staff NCOs and Officers are additionally required to qualify with a sidearm. Just like physical fitness scores, weapons qualification is a factor considered for promotion. Now, I could expound about having learned to disassemble and reassemble the M14, M16, M1911A1 and other personal weapons either in the light of day or the dark of night, with no light. I could undeniably state that except for the time in Boot Camp, when we were qualifying with frost on the grass and ice on the puddles left by rain the day before, and I only earned a "(crapper) Seat" (Marksman, the lowest qualifying award), I fired Expert with both the M14 and M16 rifles. I could likewise state that with the M1911A1 I fired UNK (unqualified), then Sharpshooter and then Expert. Does this in any way, shape, form, or fashion qualify me to tell someone else they have no right to own personal firearms for what ever reason they wish? Does it entitle me to call someone else a coward for owning, and being proficient with, stuff that goes "Bang!"?

Not hardly.

But there are those who would tell the rest of us we're nothing but cowards for taking up arms in defense of ourselves or others, that anyone who feels it necessary to use a weapon for any reason is a coward. I believe the head docs have a word to describe this, projection.

I would also like to hear them tell that to the holder of the range record when my son graduated from Boot Camp down at Pleasure Island in 1995... a girl, from Johnson City, but a girl all the same. And yes, he and his entire platoon got ragged on mercilessly for a girl from Tennessee whupping them on the rifle range.

On 15 December 2012, ten days before this past Christmas, The Gang and I were headed out to a bon voyage (that's French, means "Yoohoo, toodles Baby!") party at a Mexican restaurant for a budette and family who were moving to another state. As I went to press the "arm" button on the alarm, I got a feeling. It wasn't anything I could say was defined in any way, it was just a feeling that something out of the ordinary was going to happen that night.

I'm no gun aficionado. I always figured if a discussion degraded to physical confrontation we needed to remember that, just like eating fried chicken, God made fingers and hands, and feet and knees and elbows and heads and teeth, long before we invented utensils. Besides, pain reminds us that maybe we shouldn't be doing anything that hurts. But these days roughing it is no longer a black and white TV with no remote control, it's no computer and cell phone and digital oscilloscope and el spiffo meters and internet connections. I'm also no longer a mere pup of 50, so things like moving the mini-lathe or mini-mill from the shed to the shop and back again when nobody else is around are a little more difficult than they used to be. Beside the, um, let's call it a maturity issue, there are two others; 1) I decided long ago that my face is too pretty for any more scars, and 2) I still suffer nightmares from that time in 3rd grade when a kid was winning in a schoolyard fight and my younger sister yanked him off of me. Boy, did she wail on him. Nobody was going to beat me up but her.

But I had a feeling when setting the alarm to leave that night. So I acted on the intuition.

The Gang and I live in the country these days. Out a little, but not too far. From our gravel road, for several miles in either direction, it's nothing but private property on both sides of the hard road, obvious farmland and pasture. Upon making that turn onto the gravel toward our place it's exactly 2,729 feet (or exactly 2,754 feet, depending upon which side of the road one walks, averaged over three measurements, and rounded to the nearest whole foot), about half a mile, from the hard road to the walnut tree in front of the porch. My ADHD kicks into high gear every once in a while. Depending on the time of year, cell phone service gets too pooped to participate about 3 to 5 miles down the road in either direction. As stated, it's all private property, and posted, once one leaves the hard road and, since women aren't lined up to come calling, there's no reason for anyone to be back there unless invited. The gravel road is one lane with either a ditch or a bank on either side, not a lot of room for two vehicles to pass when we meet and no room in some spots. But it's all private property with only three residences on our road so there isn't often an issue.

As we came home that Saturday night we came around the hay barn, up over the hill, and as we started down into the last big curve toward home I saw what looked to be at least two sets of vehicle lights through the trees. They were just out of sight of our cabin if we'd been home. There's no reason for anyone to be there, stopped, at 10:30 at night so I slowed down and got prepared for what might be about to occur. When we got down where those vehicles were stopped one of the drivers came back to speak. I asked what they were doing back there on posted private property, they were stopped right next to one of the signs, and if they might be doing some last minute Christmas shopping. The young fella started getting a little snippy... until he noticed there were two loaded magazines in the left hand resting on my steering wheel and my right hand was in my lap, with a hunk of exquisitely machined, high carbon German steel in it. Unlike Joshua Seto, mine was on safe. Then he got very polite as he said "Yes, sir, I understand this is all private property back here, sir. We're leaving now, sir. No sir. We won't be back here again, sir." I counted three people in two vehicles, a pickup truck and an SUV with dark tinted windows. They didn't see those finely ground lands and grooves, but that's only because I was trained to never raise a weapon unless it's going to be used.

Some might ask why I didn't just back out and go call the law. There are several problems with that. First, it would've been necessary to back 100+ yards up hill on a narrow, twisted gravel road before being able to turn around... on an almost moonless, slightly overcast night with no streetlights. It gets dark at night out in the country. That's why we can see the stars and the Milky Way. The visitors were at a wide spot in the road. It would still have been a hike to get to anyone who could have provided assistance if needed, and no cell phone service for quite a distance even then. There isn't a lot of traffic on the hard road at that time of night either, as we discovered a couple of weeks ago when a young lady slid off the road in the rain and wasn't discovered for over three hours. Even when called, on a good day it can take the sheriff an hour or more to get there.

We call that... committed to the situation.

Some might ask why we live out so far. Because I choose to. It's our right to live where we wish, isn't it. Friends have asked about security. They forget that GPS tracking devices and high definition video equipment aren't all that expensive these days and video can easily be streamed to a website... presuming someone sneaking in makes it down the drive very far, undetected, whether we're there or not.

Life is, after all, nothing more than a series of choices we either make for ourselves or allow others to make for us, isn't it. If we're going to make those life choices we better be willing, and able, to deal with the consequences, shouldn't we. That often requires not only knowing how, but practice with the tools and techniques.

I'm a hunter. The Gang and I go to the meat department at either Wally World or Bi-Lo every couple of weeks and scrounge around for bargains. I'm cheap, not green, and they like a steak every once in a while to go along with what they catch for themselves. I'm not a sport hunter. My career as a Great (sort of) White Hunter ended the week I turned 13 years old and shot a rabbit with my bow... then had to chase him down and kill him. My dad and I dressed it out and Aunt Tina fried that dude up so we could eat it on our way to California. I ate rabbit, the rabbit I had to kill with my own hands, from Columbus, Ohio, to Amarillo, Texas, on that trip. To this day I don't eat rabbit. Could I? Yes, in a skinny minute if there isn't anything else. Could I catch my own food? I know how to hunt game, with or without things that make a big noise, and can track it as well as most so-called sport hunters. But The Gang and I will do our hunting at Bi-Lo, Wally World, or what ever else is convenient until we have to do otherwise.

I know a lot of people who hunt wild game, either for food or just to keep down the varmint population. More power to 'em. I'm not oblivious to the tools of that activity. I've heard of people using a shotgun to hunt deer but you know, I've never really known of any hunter, a true hunter, who would use a shotgun to harvest a deer. Those I've asked say it ruins too much of the meat. But who is any of us to tell someone else what tool they should use to hunt as long as it's powerful enough to make a quick kill.

Which brings me to the point, bullying.

Bullying takes many forms, doesn't it. We see bigger kids who think it's fun to push the smaller ones around, or those who attempt to use peer pressure to force others to follow along. If we stop and think about it just a little, wouldn't it be fair to say that most crime is nothing more than a manifestation of bullying in some fashion?

We see supervisors at work who will threaten subordinates with their jobs, pay, and promotions if they won't submit to their demands, even when those demands are inappropriate. A case in point is Mayor Littlefield's buddy in Chattanooga, one Mr. Paul Page who spent years sexually harassing women who were his subordinates. And when he was busted, even by the feds at the EEOC, what were the consequences? He was allowed to "retire." He retired when some of those subordinates were fired and never allowed to come back to work. Mayor Littlefield's buddy...

We complain about children being bullied at school, on school buses, at bus stops, in the neighborhood, and at the mall... then we tell them to be nice, ignore the tormentor. And when they do fight back what do most do, the victim becomes the one to be punished. The victim is the one who is wrong, for fighting back and defending himself or herself.

That's an interesting paradox, the one just popped it's ugly head up. We give trophies and awards for minutiae like graduating from the 1st grade or being a member of the league's losing T-Ball team, but we'll punish that came child for standing up for himself a friend. We reward mediocrity, even poor behavior in some instances, and punish virtue.

Karl Rove & Company will rant on and on about a candidate with some issues like Christine O'Donnell with her student loan issues but he'll rave about his homies with never a mention of their own financial issues, criminal records, or even drug and alcohol problems. But the commoners, the great unwashed, are supposed to fall in line behind him and Mr. Speaker Boehner because they're leaders. President Obama, Senator Reid, and the rest of the democrats aren't any better.

Bill Richardson, founder of Gun Owners of America and former California congressman, wrote in his book, Confrontational Politics, that we Americans don't like to be confrontational. In fact we go out of our way to avoid confrontation. If we look around, don't we see example after example of people who seek to use this aversion to conflict to their advantage?

Watch Chattanooga's own Mayor Littlefield. What was he doing when he called that Judge, the cute one not the mathematically challenged one, about an ongoing issue in the court concerning a business? He knew he was wrong in calling her, but he was doing nothing more than trying to bully her... like "I'm the Chattanooga mayor, aren't you impressed?" is going to carry weight with an elected judge, at least that one. When she made the issue public and recused herself, thereby doing what she rightfully should have done? We've all been able to watch as the good Mayor's had a long term hissy fit. But I've also spoken to both of them in public. The Mayor thinks he's intimidating with that cold glare of his, and certainly doesn't like to be smiled at while being ignored. On the other hand, the Judge has a twinkle in her eye that makes one believe she has the heart of a happy warrior. I wasn't there, but I can't help but believe she must have been smiling when she commented at a recent public meeting that 10,000 Chattanoogans couldn't have been wrong wanting to recall the good Mayor. Now that's a chick with attitude... um, excuse me, that's a Judge with attitude.

We've watched the same situation unfold with Chattanooga cops, haven't we. It's never wise to enter into battle with people who've chosen conflict as a career.

Pobre citio, like many politicians he tries so hard to be tough. But like all bullies, he doesn't know what to do when his intended victims stand up to him. Considering his affronts, one might easily wonder if he's going to leave town after his term expires. I mean, like, what if he weaves over the line driving while home one night after having a couple of toddies? All of us must abide by the same laws, mustn't we?

In the last chapter of his story of Candide, Voltaire writes:

"You must have a vast and magnificent estate," said Candide to the Turk.

"I have only twenty acres," replied the old man; "I and my children cultivate them; our labor preserves us from three great evils—weariness, vice, and want."

Laboring, keeping busy, being preserved from weariness, vice, and want... one must wonder if more of us stopped allowing ourselves to be bullied by politicians who've never had a real job, and elected officials who have actually had to work for their supper once in a while, if we would have so many of them, politicians, who believe themselves omnipotent. One must also wonder if those we pay not to work, had to work, there would be as much conflict on our streets and in our society.

To be sure, Candide's very last statement, "All that is very well... but let us cultivate our garden," is the way most of us would like to conduct our lives. But when we aren't allowed to do so, what then?

Although a bit out of context, wouldn't it be nice for all those bullies to be saying "O che sciagura d'essere senza coglioni!"? (Translation available here, <http://www.gutenberg.org/files/19942/19942-h/19942-h.htm>, footnote 12. I hate that it's acceptable in polite company.)

Royce Burrage, Jr.

Saying Goodbye Is Never Easy

One of the hardest things for me to do is to say "goodbye".  I had my retirement lunch Friday for being with the Telecommunications Department for Hamilton County government after a little over 10 years. My last day is this Tuesday, the 24th.  To some, it doesn't make any difference, but to me, from working on televisions in the 70s, on Oscilloscopes for Tektronics, ... (click for more)

Marc Gravitt Is The Best Choice For Register Of Deeds

I tell people that I’ve known Marc Gravitt, “since he was just pup”.  During my many years as CFO and executive vice president of what used to be Union Planters National Bank (now Regions Bank), I worked with Marc on many projects.  Most recently, serving for many years as the former CEO and president of the Associated General Contractors of East Tennessee here in Chattanooga, ... (click for more)

TBI Puts Man Who Killed 4 At Waffle House On Its "10 Most Wanted" List

A man who killed four people and injured two others at a Waffle House near Nashville on Sunday morning is still on the loose and has been added to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation's ‘Top 10 Most Wanted’ list. He was identified as Travis Reinking, 29, of Morton, Ill., was arrested last year when he was in a restricted area at the White House in Washington, D.C. Reinking ... (click for more)

Dayton Teen Arrested After Running From Deputies On Highway 60; Passenger Caught With Drugs

Hamilton County Sheriff deputies caught up with a Dayton teen who drove off at a high rate of speed on Highway 60 on Sunday afternoon. A passenger in the vehicle was caught with drugs. At approximately  5 p.m. , deputies observed a white Chrysler 200 traveling south in the 7800 block of Highway 60 at a high rate of speed. The driver was improperly passing other vehicles ... (click for more)

Moc Golfers Lead SoCon Championships

The Chattanooga Mocs have the early lead at the Southern Conference Men’s Golf Championships. The Mocs turned in 290 over their opening 18 holes at Pinehurst No. 9. Will Porter led the consistent effort with a 2-under 70. Andrew Weathers and Etienne Brault shot 73s with Lake Johnson’s 74 rounding out the team score. Luke Long had the drop score of 76.  “It was a good, ... (click for more)

Mocs Softball Drops 4-0 Decision At UNCG

 A timely miscue on defense and 11 runners left on base from the Chattanooga Mocs softball team's offense resulted in a 4-0 loss to UNCG during the series finale in Greensboro on Sunday afternoon.   Following the loss, the Mocs fall to 23-24 overall and 7-6 in Southern Conference action. UNCG improves to 38-9 overall and continues to lead the SoCon with an 11-2 record. ... (click for more)