"The most significant threat to our national security is our debt," Admiral Michael Mullen, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, August 27, 2010

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Getting/Taking Good Advice


What we observed, even though we did not watch/listen to the SOTU speech, was the connection between the disgust with this president and our disinterest in the speech.  He does not seek much less follow good advice.  Our problem with him is the repetitiveness of his rhetoric – we described it simply as a 5 year running into an 8 year commercial repeating the same message – about jobs, the economy, government programs, entitlements, etc.
The most frequently asked question we receive is – does he really believe his message or is it just politics?  We used to think it was his lack of experience – real world type – in other words a job in a private competitive business where you either compete or you fail.  We still think this is a basic void in his background but it does not answer why anyone would keep following an agenda that does not work.
So it could be politics, couldn’t it?  What we mean by that is a deliberate departure from reality with a message designed to rally enough voters to secure and then maintain power.  This is, of course, the big new problem with democracy, at least American style democracy.  Democracy is not a meritocracy.  It is a popularity contest – think high school – and the American style has now evolved to one big constant vote buying process.  Ergo, message and media management ala Axelrod.
So back to jobs.  America is now – an endless unemployment line.  And that line has grown more in the five years of Mr. Obama’s lack of leadership than anytime we can remember.  One in three Americans actually has a job.  Of those about half work in wealth creating jobs meaning, mathematically, we rely on one American to support five other Americans.  Now even if you are the most lucid anti- Luddite in history, we cannot imagine a thriving culture and society in which only one out of six citizens go to work.
Quick aside – regardless of the argument that those working in non wealth creating jobs (mostly government but not solely government) still pay taxes – yes, but they don’t create wealth.  And if you want a strong society; a strong military; a healthy citizenry; successful education; ladders to the middle class (we can only hope this rhetorical nonsense is short lived) and minimal local corruption – you need wealth creation.
Our points to this point:
  • No point in listening to Obama because his message and rhetoric are unchanged
  • His own party follows him, lemming like, but what else can they do?
  • Well they well could demand change but they too like their non wealth creating jobs
  • The opposition is fed up – we sure don’t blame them – so they get tabbed as obstructionists
  • Every day fewer Americans work; fewer Americans enter the middle class; fewer Americans stay in the middle class
  • And business, competitive commerce – those who engage in the wealth creating process – who must survive or disappear, are ignored
Please look up at the top of this essay and reread our title.
If you have a health concern, who do you go to for advice/information/solutions?
If you have a plumbing problem who to you to go for a fix?
If you wish to learn a foreign language where do you go?
If you want a good haircut what do you do?
In every case, of course, you go to someone who knows – who has done it before – or seen it before – or has fixed it before – or who has a reputation for satisfactory results.
You don’t go to a plumber when you have chest pains – or a doctor when your toilet leaks.

There are 50 million Americans, all of whom are engaged in competitive wealth creating commerce.  Any one of them could/would do a better job creating wealth; creating jobs; growing our economy here at home, than the lost soul in the white house.
Popularity contests work where there is nothing at stake – high school elections are a good example.  They stink when it comes to choosing leaders to compete against people who know how to get and follow good advice.  At least now.

These pages, right here at www.thefundamentals.us , are filled with the good advice of those who have been there; done it; succeeded; and are ready to do it again.  We will continue to favor their views on these pages.  But this democracy of ours will fail as we continue to ignore them.  And we will not be able to point a finger of blame at anyone – not the republicans; not the 1%; globalism; most certainly not the terrorists if we let that happen.
But those who refuse to get and take good advice will do exactly that – blame someone/something else.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Three more years

How does one insulate themselves from embarrassment – the normal human response to doing something stupid – or clumsy – or careless – or simply getting caught in the act of an obvious lie or devious or dishonest act?  How can one master the art that was best displayed by Peter Sellers (R.I.P.) performing as Chief Inspector Clouseau in the Pink Panther series of movies? 

Well, first off, we do recognize the failure of this analogy – one guy is acting and the other guy is doing.  But, there is this one similarity – the guy acting is just plain clueless but very, very funny.  The guy doing is just plain clueless.
So, how does one develop the natural defense mechanisms of obliviousness to being a screw up?  Particularly when that one rode to power on an image of capability – intellect – cleverness –  skill?   Think about that – this carefully crafted image of being Mr. Cool now confronts daily the external realization and judgment of ineptitude and failure.  America has Ron Burgundy in the white house.  We have our very own emperor sans pantaloons.
Back to our question – how can someone be so clueless?  And unfunny in the process.
We now offer a brief summary of some possibilities of how one can do that:
·         Narcissistic beyond description of normal narcissism in abnormal psychology tomes
·         Looking for dad
·         Looking for mom
·         Drugs and other pharmaceutical aids
·         Television – sports – other escape forms
·         Adoring press coverage
·         Sycophantic surroundings and surrounders
·         Alcohol
·         Channeling Bill Clinton
·         Channeling Hillary Clinton
·         Relying solely on Valerie and Michelle for input/critique
·         Channeling any recent federal reserve chairperson
·         Limiting public appearances to fawning groups – NAACP, NEA, AFT, SEIU and AFSCME
·         Stacking the stage at carefully choreographed speeches with stooges
·         All of the above

There it is.  Can he pull it off for three more years?  Well, there will be as many opinions in response to that question as there will be responders.   Ours?
We don’t think he has a chance.  He has failed completely and we must struggle along for three more years.   Listening to his empty words and living his failed solutions.  We will survive but his acceptance of mediocrity in measurable results gets awful darn boring.   By the end of his second term America will have lived through an eight year commercial that will forever be a monument to the power of disinformation over results.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Thank you, Dr. Coburn

Here is a brief biography of the title subject:

·         Born in 1948 in Wyoming
·         Married Carolyn Denton – they have three daughters
·         Graduated from Oklahoma State University
·         Worked in family ophthalmology company
·         Graduated from University of Oklahoma with a medical degree
·         Practiced as an obstetrician delivering 4,000 newborns
·         US House of Representatives 1994 – 2000
·         US Senate 2004 – 2014
Dr. Coburn never lost an election.  He followed his own rule of self imposed term limits retiring from the House and now will retire from the Senate at the end of this year.  In other words, this man is not a career politician.  He is a citizen who has made substantial contributions to his community as a businessman; as a physician and most recently as a citizen in government.  Most importantly he is a good man; a good father and grandfather and a good husband. 
Dr. Coburn has done more to expose fraud in social security disability applications and approvals than all the thousands of bureaucrats at HHS and the Justice Department whose job description is to stop fraud in disability payments.
Dr. Coburn is an outlier in every meaning of the expression.  He lives his life following a set of values and fundamentals eschewing the wandering winds of politics and popularity.  The fact that 71% of Oklahoma voters, more than 700,000 citizens, voted for this man to reelect him to the US Senate in 2010 should give hope to any American who fears for the future of this country under the direction and activities of the current wasteful and promiscuous government.
Margaret Carlson wrote a wonderful tribute to Dr. Coburn last week – you can read it at:  http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-01-17/tom-coburn-leaves-a-lonely-place-lonelier.html
TheFundamentals had hoped Dr. Coburn would run for president in 2016.  We now wish him God speed and good health.   Thank you, Dr. Coburn. 


Friday, January 17, 2014

Government Snooping

What follows is the text of a statement written by an officer of an American corporation about "serious concerns about government surveillance."  TheFundamentals has a few additional comments at the end of the statement.

“Many of our customers have serious concerns about government surveillance of the Internet.

We share their concerns. That’s why we are taking steps to ensure governments use legal process rather than technological brute force to access customer data.
Like many others, we are especially alarmed by recent allegations in the press of a broader and concerted effort by some governments to circumvent online security measures – and in our view, legal processes and protections – in order to surreptitiously collect private customer data. In particular, recent press stories have reported allegations of governmental interception and collection – without search warrants or legal subpoenas – of customer data as it travels between customers and servers or between company data centers in our industry.
If true, these efforts threaten to seriously undermine confidence in the security and privacy of online communications. Indeed, government snooping potentially now constitutes an “advanced persistent threat,” alongside sophisticated malware and cyber attacks.
In light of these allegations, we’ve decided to take immediate and coordinated action in three areas:
· We are expanding encryption across our services.
· We are reinforcing legal protections for our customers’ data.
· We are enhancing the transparency of our software code, making it easier for customers to reassure themselves that our products do not contain back doors.
Here’s a closer look at what we’re doing:
Expanding Encryption
For many years, we’ve used encryption in our products and services to protect our customers from online criminals and hackers. While we have no direct evidence that customer data has been breached by unauthorized government access, we don't want to take any chances and are addressing this issue head on. Therefore, we will pursue a comprehensive engineering effort to strengthen the encryption of customer data across our networks and services.
This effort will include our major communications, productivity and developer services such as Outlook.com, Office 365, SkyDrive and Windows Azure, and will provide protection across the full lifecycle of customer-created content. More specifically:
· Customer content moving between our customers and Microsoft will be encrypted by default.
· All of our key platform, productivity and communications services will encrypt customer content as it moves between our data centers.
· We will use best-in-class industry cryptography to protect these channels, including Perfect Forward Secrecy and 2048-bit key lengths.
· All of this will be in place by the end of 2014, and much of it is effective immediately.
· We also will encrypt customer content that we store. In some cases, such as third-party services developed to run on Windows Azure, we’ll leave the choice to developers, but will offer the tools to allow them to easily protect data.
· We’re working with other companies across the industry to ensure that data traveling between services – from one email provider to another, for instance – is protected.
Although this is a significant engineering effort given the large number of services we offer and the hundreds of millions of customers we serve, we’re committed to moving quickly. In fact, many of our services already benefit from strong encryption in all or part of the lifecycle. For example, Office 365 and Outlook.com customer content is already encrypted when traveling between customers and Microsoft, and most Office 365 workloads as well as Windows Azure storage are now encrypted in transit between our data centers. In other areas we’re accelerating plans to provide encryption.
Reinforcing Legal Protections
We also will take new steps to reinforce legal protections for our customers’ data. For example, we are committed to notifying business and government customers if we receive legal orders related to their data. Where a gag order attempts to prohibit us from doing this, we will challenge it in court. We’ve done this successfully in the past, and we will continue to do so in the future to preserve our ability to alert customers when governments seek to obtain their data. And we’ll assert available jurisdictional objections to legal demands when governments seek this type of customer content that is stored in another country.
Except in the most limited circumstances, we believe that government agencies can go directly to business customers or government customers for information or data about one of their employees – just as they did before these customers moved to the cloud – without undermining their investigation or national security. And when those limited circumstances arise, courts should have the opportunity to review the question and issue a decision.
Increasing Transparency
Just as we’ve called for governments to become more transparent about these issues, we believe it’s appropriate for us to be more transparent ourselves. We’re therefore taking additional steps to increase transparency by building on our long-standing program that provides government customers with an appropriate ability to review our source code, reassure themselves of its integrity, and confirm there are no back doors. We will open a network of transparency centers that will provide these customers with even greater ability to assure themselves of the integrity of Microsoft’s products. We’ll open these centers in Europe, the Americas and Asia, and we’ll further expand the range of products included in these programs.
Ultimately, we’re sensitive to the balances that must be struck when it comes to technology, security and the law. We all want to live in a world that is safe and secure, but we also want to live in a country that is protected by the Constitution. We want to ensure that important questions about government access are decided by courts rather than dictated by technological might. And we’re focused on applying new safeguards worldwide, recognizing the global nature of these issues and challenges. We believe these new steps strike the right balance, advancing for all of us both the security we need and the privacy we deserve.”
Brad Smith, General Counsel and  Executive Vice President, Legal and Corporate Affairs, Microsoft.
4 Dec 2013 9:00 PM

Comments from TheFundamentals:

1.  The US Constitution has been undergoing an aggressive shredding for some time now.  Mostly at the hands of the very people who take oaths "to protect and defend the Constitution."  Meaning - elected officials, judges and bureaucrats.
2.  We would imagine that the above comments from an American corporate executive are founded in mostly propitious motivations (i.e. we had better speak out and take some action or sales will decline.)
3.  The fourth amendment (please see our 9/17/2013 post) of our constitution is a statement of "admirable clarity" limiting government power and protecting citizen privacy.
4.  For most of us it ain't about profits - its about life, liberty and the pursuit of a peaceful existence.


Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Little Sisters of the Poor

Jeanne Jugan began with very little. She is born during the French Revolution and reduced to poverty when her father is lost at sea. As a teenager she goes to work as a kitchen maid for a wealthy family. In 1817 she leaves home to work in the hospital in Saint Servan. Twenty-two years later, she is still working for other people, living in a small apartment and leading a quiet life of piety and good works.

Everything changes one night in the winter of 1839—we don’t know the exact date—when she cannot resist the sight of a blind, paralyzed old woman out in the cold with no one to care for her. Jeanne carries the old woman home and places her in her own bed. From that night on, Jeanne Jugan belongs to God and to the elderly of the whole world.

The work develops quickly. More old women are brought to her doorstep. Jeanne and her companions—one older woman and several pious young girls—offer them hospitality and care for them as if they were their own grandmothers. Giving the best place to the old women, they sleep on the attic floor.

By 1841 the “family” of old women and their caregivers outgrow the small apartment and move into larger accommodations. With the advice and support of the Hospitaller Brothers of Saint John of God, Jeanne begins collecting in the local community on behalf of her poor. This spares the old women the indignity of begging for themselves on the streets of Saint Servan.

In 1842 the group moves into an even larger building—a nearby convent that had been vacated during the Revolution. The small nucleus of pious women begins to take the form of a religious community. They call themselves the Servants of the Poor. Jeanne is elected superior. She and several others make a vow of obedience.

Re-elected as superior the next year, Jeanne is removed from office by a young priest appointed to advise the nascent community on December 23, 1843. She is given the job of collecting for the elderly in Saint Servan and its environs. In early 1844 the group changes their name to Sisters of the Poor to better reflect their desire to truly be sisters to the elderly in the Lord’s name.

Jeanne is awarded the Montyon Prize, a prestigious award given by the French Academy for meritorious work, in 1845. The next year, she founds houses in Rennes and Dinan. Then Tours. Jeanne continues to beg on behalf of the poor.

In 1847 the young Congregation holds its first General Chapter. Jeanne is not invited. In 1849, ten years after the first old woman was welcomed by Jeanne, the popular name Little Sisters of the Poor is definitively adopted.

By 1850 the Congregation numbers over 100 Little Sisters. The motherhouse and novitiate are established in Rennes in 1852. Jeanne is recalled there, told to break all contact with friends and benefactors and placed in retirement, with no specific duties. Four years later she will move to the new motherhouse in Saint Pern, to remain there—hidden in the shadows—for the rest of her life.

The Congregation receives diocesan approval on May 29, 1852. It is recognized as a Pontifical Institute by Pope Pius XI on July 9, 1854. Pope Leo XIII approves the Constitutions of the Little Sisters of the Poor for a period of seven years on March 1, 1879. By then there are 2,400 Little Sisters in 9 countries.

Hidden away in La Tour, Jeanne Jugan dies on August 29, 1879, at age 86. She is no longer recognized as the foundress. But like the grain of wheat that falls into the ground her life bears much fruit …

While continuing to spread all over France, the Congregation takes root in England in 1851 despite great hardships and resistance in some quarters due to anti-Catholic sentiments. Belgium is next, and then Spain, Ireland and North Africa. A young priest named Ernest LeLievre dedicates his life to the Little Sisters, eventually traveling all over the world to establish homes for the elderly.

Father LeLievre sets out for America in 1868, stating, “As we leave the old world for the new, we still have the same responsibilities, the same struggle, the same people, the same God. On the shores of the Mississippi, as on the banks of the Jordan, the world has need of being renewed.” He lands in New York June 10, 1868 and in the next four years he will pave the way for the establishment of 13 homes in the United States.

Before leaving America in the summer of 1872 to establish more homes in France and Spain, LeLievre writes to his cousin back in France, “The work of the Little Sisters here has succeeded far beyond what I ever expected. The thirteen homes founded on this continent are all the owners of the houses they occupy, or of the land on which they will build when necessary … Such a success and all it demands, I admit, is overwhelming.…”
Our comment:  This woman is a Saint.  She was no stranger to dealing with the petty politicians and bureaucrats of her time who would seek to thwart or capitalize on her unselfish commitment.   Nothing has changed.