Thursday, October 28, 2010

Downfall of a Democracy

The purpose of our federal government is to protect individual freedom, ensure a level playing field, maintain a common infrastructure and provide a national defense. Its purpose is not to run your personal life, not to run the economy, not to redistribute wealth, not to be a do-gooder charity and not to be the self-appointed police force of the rest of the world.

You can't give government the power to do good without giving it the power to do anything it wants.

Alexander Tyler, a Scottish history professor at the University of Edinburgh, wrote a treatise in 1787, titled THE CYCLE OF DEMOCRACY. In it he made the following observation:

“A Democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until voters discover that they can vote themselves money from the public treasury. From that moment on the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most money from the public treasury, with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy followed by a dictatorship.”

Tyler went on to point out that the average age of the world’s great civilizations has been approximately 200 years and that they seemed to progress through the same inevitable sequence -- from bondage to courage to liberty to abundance to selfishness to dependency and back to bondage.

Ultimately, a democracy cannot sustain itself because the voting public does not vote for the best interest of the country -- it votes for the most rewards of the individual. More for me, less for others.

Today, the USA is rapidly sliding down the slippery slope of dependency, heading back to bondage where the government no longer serves the people but rather the people serve the government.

While local governments are forced to adhere to a fixed budget, the federal government continues to spend more money than it takes in, pushing this irresponsible debt upon future generations. Our present national debt exceeds $13.7 trillion and is projected to become increasingly worse over the next several years with no end in sight.

Voters elect politicians who will bring home the bacon rather than adhere to sound fiscal policy. This inherent greed of the voting public will eventually lead to the downfall of our democracy. Instead of using tax dollars sparingly and wisely to protect our individual freedom, it’s being used to create dependency on the federal government and protect the incumbency of politicians.

And all too often, the government solution to a problem is worse than the problem. Invariably, every government program will be more expensive than when originally proposed and there will be a slew of unintended negative consequences. When Medicare was first created in 1965, the government projected the cost in 1992 would be $3 billion -- the actual cost in 1992 was $110 billion.

Under the present Obama administration, which advocates expanding government control of every aspect of our lives, we are now being forced to purchase a health care scheme (or be fined if we don't) that contains more than 2,000 pages of rules, written by a congressional committee whose chairman doesn't understand it, covering tens of millions more people, without adding a single doctor, requiring 16,000 new IRS agents to administer the scheme. It was passed in haste by a Congress that didn't read it, but exempted themselves from it, to be financially administered by a treasury chief who didn't pay his taxes, for which we will be taxed for four years before any benefits take place, by a government that has already bankrupted Social Security and Medicare. And to make it palatable to its subjects, the government will toss in several more millions of our tax dollars in a TV propaganda campaign with Andy Griffith telling America how wonderful it all is.

Our ever-growing dependency on a large central government will surely lead us into bondage once again. Our only options will be to grind away at peak production and seek mindless growth, while shoveling most of the rewards down the rat hole of a government whose solution to problems is peak production and mindless growth.

A vote for more government goodies is a vote into human bondage. We will enslave ourselves by our own greed.

The downfall of our country is inevitable unless a large number of people wise up and do something about it, such as insisting our government live within a reasonable budget and keep their meddling to a minimum. Serving oneself by collectively plundering others and financing our collective greed by borrowing against the earnings of future generations is highly immoral.

A reliance on government leads to the growth of government, which leads to the dominance of government, which leads to servitude (bondage) to government. A government that gives you everything you want is a government that will take everything you have, which ultimately includes your freedom.

Life is simple -- more government means less freedom.

Individual freedom is our inherent right -- it has nothing to do with government granting it. Many valiant souls have sacrificed their lives to ensure liberty for all -- it is a battle that never ends.

Quote for the Day -- "Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys." P. J. O'Rourke

Bret Burquest is an award-winning columnist and author of four novels. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a dog named Buddy Lee and where freedom is never free. His blogs appear on several websites, including

Saturday, October 23, 2010

13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird

Poetry is an escape from personality. Those who comprehend it realize it's basically a falsehood that speaks the truth. Even if poetry has meaning, which it occasionally does or so I've been told, perhaps it is not wise to draw it out -- understanding it may destroy the pleasure.

Many moons ago, I was a student at the University of Minnesota, majoring in mathematics. During my freshman English class, a required course, the instructor gave us an assignment to write a paper on the meaning of a poem titled "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird" by Wallace Stevens.

No big deal, I thought -- only 13 stanzas containing 246 words.

Among twenty snowy mountains,
The only moving thing
Was the eye of the black bird.
I was of three minds,
Like a tree
In which there are three blackbirds.
The blackbird whirled in the autumn winds.
It was a small part of the pantomime.
A man and a woman
Are one.
A man and a woman and a blackbird
Are one.
I do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of inflections
Or the beauty of innuendoes,
The blackbird whistling
Or just after.
Icicles filled the long window
With barbaric glass.
The shadow of the blackbird
Crossed it, to and fro.
The mood
Traced in the shadow
An indecipherable cause.
O thin men of Haddam,
Why do you imagine golden birds?
Do you not see how the blackbird
Walks around the feet
Of the women about you?
I know noble accents
And lucid, inescapable rhythms;
But I know, too,
That the blackbird is involved
In what I know.
When the blackbird flew out of sight,
It marked the edge
Of one of many circles.
At the sight of blackbirds
Flying in a green light,
Even the bawds of euphony
Would cry out sharply.
He rode over Connecticut
In a glass coach.
Once, a fear pierced him,
In that he mistook
The shadow of his equipage
For blackbirds.
The river is moving.
The blackbird must be flying.
It was evening all afternoon.
It was snowing
And it was going to snow.
The blackbird sat
In the cedar-limbs.

Well, it turned out to be a big deal. After reading it 13 times, I still came to the same conclusion -- some clown jotted down a series of random thoughts, as if doodling with words, and it had no obvious meaning other than it probably had to do with something other than blackbirds.

Rather than bang my head against the wall, I showed the poem to a friend named Glenn, a sophomore English major. Glenn was happy to explain, with the aid of multiple beverages made from hops, over the course of a couple of hours, the tiers of deep meaning within the poem.

It had to do with the insights of how people think and what it means when someone finally figures it (life) out. The poem starts with the perception of the blackbird from the point of view of an observer, followed by the intellectual process of the observation, followed by the intellectual process of the blackbird itself and what it must be like to be a blackbird. In the process, "a man and a woman and a blackbird are one" -- just as "all is one" in the scheme of the universe and beyond. Additionally, it has something to do with commonality, the basic human ego, and that our identities as base humans is spiritual enough. The black bird is a common bird, but its very existence in this poem seems to be linked with natural processes, as if the act of observation on the part of our egos is the act of holding the creation together. The conclusion seems to deal with the shortcomings of our egocentric lives, thus it was thereby structured in such a way to reflect the human thought process.

Glenn went on to proclaim that it was written in such a fashion so as to allow for multiple interpretations of its meaning. For example, if the blackbird represented the human thought process, the piece had one meaning. If the blackbird represented God, it had another meaning. If the blackbird represented death, it had yet another meaning. And so forth. Seemingly endless possibilities, primarily depending on when the supply of beverages made from hops would cease to exist.

By the time Glenn was done explaining the meaning of the poem, I walked over to the nearest wall and banged my head 13 times. It was like trying to explain the meaning of an abstract painting of a small red circle within a large random splatter of black paint -- 13 different observers would come up with 13 different interpretations, when in fact the artist simply splattered some black paint on a canvas and inserted a red circle for no particular reason other than it felt like the thing to do at the time.

In any event, I wrote some gibberish about the poem relating animal life to human life and concluding there was sort of comparable relationship. Since I really didn't have a clue about the poem, I did a lot of bluffing and compared it to the passage of a full human lifetime based on a couple of lines ("the river is moving" and "when the blackbird flew out of sight, it marked the edge of one of many circles").

In the end, I got a "C" in freshman English, no doubt well deserved for my ability to portray knowledge without actually attaining it. Elsewhere I did better, including an "A" in integral calculus -- you can't bluff in a math course, so I was forced to learn it.

Glenn went on to become a successful professional photographer. I went on to become a successful professional bum (computer programmer, independent contractor, mountaintop hippie, gold prospector, desert rat, novelist, computer consultant, wandering adventurer, newspaper columnist, college instructor, reclusive hermit).

Wallace Stevens (1879 - 1955) was a lawyer for an insurance company who probably had lots of idle time at his desk to jot down random thoughts (doodles), which later became poems. He won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1955.

Sometimes, one person's mind doodles become another person's meaning of life. In the end, a poem points to nothing but itself.

Quote for the Day -- "Blackbird singing in the dead of night... Take these broken wings and learn to fly... All your life you were only waiting for this moment to arise." Paul McCartney and John Lennon

Bret Burquest is an award-winning columnist and author of four novels. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a dog named Buddy Lee and where the beauty of innuendoes whirled among the thin men of Haddam where the bawds of euphony sat in the cedar-limbs beyond the long window of barbaric glass in the shadow of the blackbird. His blogs appear on several websites, including

Saturday, October 16, 2010

John Lennon's Birthday

"You don't need anybody to tell you who you are or what you are. You are what you are." John Lennon

John Winston Lennon was born on October 9, 1940, in Liverpool, England.

"I believe in everything until it's disproved. So I believe in fairies, the myths, dragons. It all exists, even if it's in your mind. Who's to say that dreams and nightmares aren't as real as the here and now?" John Lennon

Lennon attended Quarry Bank High School in Liverpool.

"If being an egomaniac means I believe in what I do and in my art or music, then in that respect you can call me that... I believe in what I do, and I'll say it." John Lennon

In 1956, Lennon's first band included several schoolmates and was called The Quarrymen.

"A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality." John Lennon

In 1960, the Quarrymen evolved into the Beatles, with John Lennon (rhythm guitar), Paul McCartney (guitar), George Harrison (lead guitar), Stuart Sutcliffe (bass guitar), George Best (drums).

"If everyone demanded peace instead of another television set, then there'd be peace." John Lennon

Beetles are a group of insects with the largest number of known species whereas The Beatles are a group of four mop-haired musicians who became the most commercially successful rock band in world history.

"You have to be a bastard to make it, and that's a fact. And the Beatles are the biggest bastards on earth." John Lennon

After a couple of personnel changes, the permanent members of the Beatles in 1962 were John Lennon (rhythm guitar), Paul McCartney (bass guitar), George Harrison (lead guitar) and Ringo Starr (drums) -- all four of them participated in vocals in various songs.

"We've got this gift of love, but love is like a precious plant. You can't just accept it and leave it in the cupboard or just think it's going to get on by itself. You've got to keep watering it. You've got to really look after it and nurture it." John Lennon

The Beatles created 45 Gold albums, 39 Platinum albums and 14 Multi-Platinum albums in the USA, and received 7 Grammy Awards

"Reality leaves a lot to the imagination." John Lennon

During the Vietnam war in the late 60s, Lennon became a peace activist.

"All we are saying is give peace a chance." John Lennon

Lennon met Yoko Ono in 1966 at an art gallery where Ono's works were being displayed.

"Everything is clearer when you're in love." John Lennon

On March 20, 1969, John Lennon and Yoko Ono were married in Gibraltar and spent their honeymoon in Amsterdam..

"As usual, there is a great woman behind every idiot." John Lennon

In September of 1969, Lennon left The Beatles and the band was disbanded.

"I'm not going to change the way I look or the way I feel to conform to anything. I've always been a freak. So I've been a freak all my life and I have to live with that, you know. I'm one of those people." John Lennon

Due to Lennon's opposition to the Vietnam War, the Nixon Administration initiated deportation against him and on March 23, 1973, Lennon was ordered to leave the USA within 60 days.

"Our society is run by insane people for insane objectives. I think we're being run by maniacs for maniacal ends and I think I'm liable to be put away as insane for expressing that. That's what's insane about it." John Lennon

The FBI admitted it had 281 pages of files on Lennon but refused to release them on the grounds they contained national security information.

"The more I see the less I know for sure." John Lennon

In 1975, during the Ford Administration, the deportation order of John Lennon was overturned.

"The basic thing nobody asks is why do people take drugs of any sort? Why do we have these accessories to normal living to live? I mean, is there something wrong with society that's making us so pressurized, that we cannot live without guarding ourselves against it?" John Lennon

Early in the evening of December 8, 1980, Lennon autographed his "Double Fantasy" album for a young man named Mark David Chapman as he was exiting the Dakota, his NYC apartment building.

"The postman wants an autograph. The cab driver wants a picture. The waitress wants a handshake. Everyone wants a piece of you." John Lennon

Later in the evening of December 8, 1980, Lennon was fatally shot four times in the back by Mark David Chapman, a paranoid schizophrenic, as he was entering his apartment building.

"Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans." John Lennon

Yoko Ono scattered Lennon's ashes in New York City's Central Park.

"All you need is love." John Lennon

Rest in Peace, John Winston Lennon -- no peace here on Planet Earth yet.

"Everybody loves you when you're six foot in the ground." John Lennon

As a song-writer (or co-writer) and performer, Lennon was responsible for 27 number one singles and sold over 14 million solo albums in the USA.

"Strawberry Fields Forever." John Lennon

In 1997, Lennon was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

"Music is everybody's possession. It's only publishers who think that people own it." John Lennon

In 2008, Rolling Stone Magazine ranked Lennon the fifth greatest singer of all time.

"My role in society, or any artist's or poet's role, is to try and express what we all feel. Not to tell people how to feel. Not as a preacher, not as a leader, but as a reflection of us all." John Lennon

On October, 9, 2010, John Lennon celebrated his 70th birthday in another dimension somewhere in the Great Beyond.

"We all shine on, like the moon, and the stars, and the sun." John Lennon

Quote for the Day -- "Imagine all the people living life in peace. You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one. I hope someday you'll join us, and the world will be as one." John Lennon

Bret Burquest is an award-winning columnist and author of four novels. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a dog named Buddy Lee and where everything is what it is. His blogs appear on several websites, including

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Alien Ambassador

We are either alone in the universe or we're not -- either way, it boggles the mind.

The discovery hundreds of planets around other stars recently has increased the likelihood of life elsewhere in the universe.

In October of 2010, the United Nations is planning to appoint Malaysian astrophysicist Mazlan Othman, the head of the UN's Office of Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), in a potential new role as chief alien ambassador of the universe.

In a speech to fellow scientists, Othman stated, "The continued search for extraterrestrial communication, by several entities, sustains the hopes that some day humankind will receive signals from extraterrestrials. When we do, we should have in place a coordinated response that takes into account all the sensitivities related to the subject. The U.N. is a ready-made mechanism for such coordination."

According to Professer Richard Crowther of the U.K. Space Agency, "Othman is absolutely the nearest thing we have to a 'take me to your leader' person."

I first heard of this appointment on three different TV news channels last week. In each instance, the news anchor giggled during the reporting of this item. Apparently the possibility of intelligent life existing somewhere beyond our spinning orb, within the vastness of zillions of other spinning orbs, is beyond the comprehension of the talking faces in network TV.

On a clear night, depending on your location and ability to scan freely from horizon to horizon in all directions, the average person is able to view approximately 3,000 stars with the naked eye.

Currently, astronomers can account for 70 sextillion stars in the visible universe. A sextillion is a 1 followed by 21 zeroes. That's 70,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 known stars in the universe. That's more than all the grains of sand on all the beaches of the entire Earth. This is not the total number of stars in the universe -- it's the number within the range of present day telescopes. The true number could be a zillion times higher.

There are nearly 7 billion people on this planet; that's 10 trillion known stars for every human being on Earth. For every single person, there are 10,000,000,000,000 known stars in the universe. Each star could have multiple planets within their system, just as we have multiple planets in our own solar system. Numerous planets have already been discovered in the closer regions of space.

If only one out of every million known stars (solar systems) has just one planet with intelligent life (one in a million), there would be approximately 70,000,000,000,000,000 planets with intelligent life in our known universe.

Plus, many theoretical physicists believe there are other (parallel) universes and multiple unperceivable (parallel) dimensions as well, all of which could possibly contain intelligent entities.

To assume human beings on Planet Earth are the only intelligent life-forms in the universe is preposterous. In fact, to assume human beings are an intelligent life-form is also preposterous.

There is a legend among certain ancient civilizations that if we ever learn the origin of our universe we will be instantly destroyed.

Remain ignorant, my fellow earthlings -- save the universe. He who giggles at the unknown is a fool.

Somewhere in this universe, the Galactic Federation is giggling at the notion of contacting Planet Earth for any other purpose than having a good laugh. The surest sign there is intelligent life in the universe is that it has not yet tried to contact us.

Quote for the Day -- "The universe is an intelligence test." Timothy Leary

Bret Burquest is an award-winning columnist and author of four novels. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a dog named Buddy Lee and where the center of the universe is a nearby hollow tree. His blogs appear on several websites, including

Saturday, October 2, 2010

War Hero's Wife

A hero is someone who understands the responsibility of this existence and reacts accordingly.

Pamela Murphy died on April 8, 2010, at age 90. She had spent 35 years as a patient liaison at the Sepulveda Veterans Administration in southern California, where she gave special treatment to every soldier under her care. She would cut through the VA red tape and made sure the soldier saw whatever specialist they needed, including marching a veteran directly into the doctor's office if he had been waiting for more than an hour.

The veterans loved her and always called her Mrs. Murphy. In 2002, her job was scheduled to be eliminated due to budget cuts. The veterans held a rally for Mrs. Murphy outside the VA gates. Soon, orders came down from above that Mrs. Murphy's job would not be eliminated after all.

Mrs. Murphy remained working full time at the VA until she was 87 years old.

For you see, Pamela Murphy was the wife of Audie Murphy (1925 - 1971), the most decorated soldier in World War II.

Audie Murphy's Medal of Honor award citation reads as follows: Second Lt. Murphy commanded Company B, which was attacked by six tanks and waves of infantry. 2d Lt. Murphy ordered his men to withdraw to a prepared position in a woods, while he remained forward at his command post and continued to give fire directions to the artillery by telephone. Behind him, to his right, one of our tank destroyers received a direct hit and began to burn. Its crew withdrew to the woods. 2d Lt. Murphy continued to direct artillery fire, which killed large numbers of the advancing enemy infantry. With the enemy tanks abreast of his position, 2d Lt. Murphy climbed on the burning tank destroyer, which was in danger of blowing up at any moment, and employed its .50 caliber machine gun against the enemy. He was alone and exposed to German fire from three sides, but his deadly fire killed dozens of Germans and caused their infantry attack to waver. The enemy tanks, losing infantry support, began to fall back. For an hour the Germans tried every available weapon to eliminate 2d Lt. Murphy, but he continued to hold his position and wiped out a squad that was trying to creep up unnoticed on his right flank. Germans reached as close as 10 yards, only to be mowed down by his fire. He received a leg wound, but ignored it and continued his single-handed fight until his ammunition was exhausted. He then made his way back to his company, refused medical attention, and organized the company in a counterattack, which forced the Germans to withdraw. His directing of artillery fire wiped out many of the enemy; he killed or wounded about 50. 2d Lt. Murphy's indomitable courage and his refusal to give an inch of ground saved his company from possible encirclement and destruction, and enabled it to hold the woods which had been the enemy's objective.

As the most decorated veteran of World War II, some of Audie Murphy's 33 medals include: Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star (with Oak Leaf Cluster), Legion of Merit, Bronze Star (with Oak Leak Cluster and Valor device), Purple Heart (with 2 Oak Leaf Clusters), Department of the Army Outstanding Civilian Service Award, U.S. Army Good Conduct Medal, Presidential Unit Citation (with Oak Leaf Cluster), American Campaign Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal (with 1 Silver Service Star and 4 Bronze Service Stars, representing 9 campaigns, and 1 Bronze Arrowhead, representing assault landing at Southern France and Italy), World War II Victory Medal, Army of Occupation Medal (with German Clasp), Armed Forces reserve Medal, French Legion of Honor (Grade of Chevalier), French Croix de guerre (with Silver Star), French Croix de guerre (with Palm), Medal of Liberated France, Belgian Croix de guerre (with 1940 Palm), and others.

An Oak Leaf Cluster signifies a subsequent award of the same decoration. First Lieutenant Audie Murphy was one of the very few officers below the rank of lieutenant colonel ever to be awarded the Legion of Merit.

Audie Murphy stood 5' 5" and enlisted into the U.S. Army at age 16 by lying about his age.

After World War II, Audie Murphy went on to become a movie star, starring in 40 Hollywood movies. He died in a plane crash in 1971 and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Audie and Pamela Murphy once lived in a comfortable ranch-style house in Van Nuys. But Audie squandered his Hollywood wealth on gambling, bad investments and other women. Pamela was stuck with Audie's debts after his death and forced to move into a small apartment with their two sons. She then found employment at the nearby VA facility and supported the veterans for the next 35 years of her life.

On this spinning orb called Earth, we are all flawed souls and potential heroes. Every thought we generate and every action we pursue is a choice. You can make the world a better place or you can make it a worse place. Or you can make babies, watch TV, go dancing, play golf, buy more bling-bling and wax your legs, thereby making no difference at all.

Choose wisely -- your destiny in eternity may depend on it.

Quote for the Day -- "Show me a hero and I'll write you a tragedy." F. Scott Fitzgerald

Bret Burquest is an award-winning columnist and author of four novels. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a dog named Buddy Lee and where a hero is a sandwich. His blogs appear on several websites, including