Friday, September 23, 2011

Fear and Loathing of Hashing

Over the years, the British have given us cricket, snooker, darts and the American Revolution. Except for the revolution, their contributions to our way of life have been rather boring. Hashing is no exception.

In 1938, a bunch of British Army officers in colonial Kuala Lampur, Malaysia, formed a running club called the Hash House Harriers, named after their meeting place, the Selanger Club, nicknamed the "Hash House."

Their idea of a jolly good time consisted of a mixture of social mingling and athleticism. They devised "Hash House Harrier" runs whereby a lead "hare" (one of the officers) would be given a head start and mark his trail with shreds of paper. The remaining officers ("harriers") would follow the clues, shouting loudly along the way, destination unknown, until they reached the end of the trail where a tub of ice-cold beer awaited them.

The 1938 charter of the original Kuala Lampur Hash House Harriers contained the following goals:

1) To promote physical fitness among our members
2) To get rid of weekend hangovers
3) To acquire a good thirst and to satisfy it in beer
4) To persuade the older members that they are not as old as they feel

After World War II, "hashing" spread to the Far East, Australia and New Zealand, and eventually gained popularity in the 1970s. Today, there are thousands of hashing clubs throughout the world, including the USA, each with its own internet website and newsletter. There are also regional and world hashing conventions.

A typical hashing club consists of 20-40 men and women who meet regularly to chase the hare. They follow trails of flour, chalk or paper (biodegradable material) and must deal with woods, hills, streams, cliffs, fences and even storm drains. Hashing in metropolitan areas is generally set up along streets and through alleyways.

In the Hash House Harrier tradition of running and partying, there's always cold brew at the end of the trail.

Basically, hashing is a social event for hoity-toity beer enthusiasts. In other words, it's a beer party, disguised as a sport, where participants work up a thirst by romping through the woods like a pack of crazed basset hounds.

An Internet search of "hashing clubs" will generate many thousands of hits, including various directories of hashing clubs.

However, I couldn't find any hashing clubs in my little corner of the world, but there are probably several good reasons why folks in northern Arkansas aren't into prancing through the countryside to down a beer.

First of all, a romp through some of the local countryside is also a romp through the homeland of many species of irritating creatures, such as spiders, ticks, chiggers and snakes. Having a cold beer at the end of a run sounds fine, but dealing with tiny, blood-sucking critters attached to various parts of your body is no fun at all. Stepping on a water moccasin or cottonmouth snake can potentially be a most unpleasant experience as well.

Northern Arkansas is also the home of some larger critters that attract sportsmen with deadly weapons and running through hunting territory is not a wise move. For example, a hasher with girth could easily be mistaken for a wild boar, a tasty chunk of meat, especially if he or she tends to snort while thrashing through the wild.

Plus, you don't have to work very hard to build up a thirst for a cold beer in this part of the country – all you have to do is step outside, particularly on a hot, humid summer afternoon, and walk out to the mailbox.

We have our own version of hashers around here. They do seem to enjoy their beer, but don't care to do the running leading up to drinking it. Instead, they drive around in pickup trucks, with faulty mufflers so you can always hear them coming from far away in case you need to get out of the way, and drink beer on the move.

And instead of marking a trail with biodegradable material, they toss the empty beer cans out the window. This way, they've created a trail of beer cans in case they need to go back to wherever they came from.

Hashing may be a fine sport for elitists in trendy locales, but in these parts (dry counties) we're forbidden by law from indulging in evil beverages.

Besides, in Redneck Heaven we only run if we're chasing something or something is chasing us.

Quote for the Day -- "What may seem depressing or even tragic to one person may seem like an absolute scream to another person, especially if he has had between four and seven beers." Dave Barry

Bret Burquest is the author of 7 books, including THE REALITY OF THE ILLUSION OF REALITY and ORB OF WOUNDED SOULS (available on Amazon). He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a dog named Buddy Lee and where everyone is as old as they feel.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

I remember my fourth grade teacher giving us a glimpse of the future. We were told that things would be so "modernized" that we would have much more free time on our hands than our parents.

My father, like almost everyone else in the 1950’s, was working 40 hours a week. I was relieved to learn that I wouldn’t have to put in that many hours when I was his age.

But it never came true -- more than a half century later, Americans are still stuck in the rut of a 40-hour workweek.

In fact, employed Americans now average more hours per week than they did fifty years ago and have less vacation time than any other industrial nation in the world.

To add to this burden, the average American family pays more in taxes than food, clothing, shelter and transportation combined.

Either we are incapable of being personally responsible for our own welfare or government has gotten vastly out of control.

Nearly 50 percent of our income goes to government. This includes federal & state income tax, social security tax, Medicare tax, real estate property tax, personal property tax, state & county & city sales tax, self-employment tax, gasoline tax, liquor tax, cigarette tax, federal excise tax, import tax, luxury tax, gift tax, inheritance tax, hotel tax, transportation tax, federal & state & county telephone tax, port-of-entry fee, marriage license fee, motor vehicle registration fee, driver’s license fee, watercraft registration fee, hunting & fishing license fee, dog & cat license fee, etc., etc.

We’re stuck at 40 hours per week with nearly 20 of those hours going to government coffers -- this is insane.

The solution to this predicament seems quite simple -- reduce the individual working hours per week, thereby creating openings for those seeking employment

Less hours per worker means more workers needed for the same productive output -- reducing unemployment rates by cutting individual work hours and hiring more people.

Thus, the birth of the 35-hour workweek or the 32-hour workweek or the 30-hour workweek.

For example, a 30-hour workweek could consist of five six-hour days or four seven-and-a-half-hour days or three ten-hour days.

It would give the economy a giant boost because more workers would be required to maintain the same level of productivity. More workers means less unemployment and welfare – more money going into the system, less taken out of the system.

Plus the economy would get a second boost with more production of leisure equipment, more travel, etc. And best of all, we’d have more free time, leading to more peace of mind.

Recent surveys show that most Americans don’t really like their jobs. They’re fed up wasting their lives away so the fat cats on top can get fatter while they get two whole days off each week to rejuvenate themselves so they can start the grind all over again on Monday. They’re working jobs they hate in order to buy things they don’t need. And sooner or later, these things end up owning them.

This is no longer the 1950s -- we don't need to squeeze everyone into a 40-hour per week job. The world has become more efficient. We should be able to cut back on working hours, creating more opportunities for those shut out of the work place, and still maintain a viable lifestyle.

Instead of continually clamoring for jobs, jobs, jobs, we should make quality of life our common objective. This would include a shorter work-week, less government intrusion into our lives, living within our national fiscal means, etc.

The government wants everyone working at full capacity to maximize tax revenues, in order to increase the scope of the government. The corporate world wants everyone working at full capacity in order to maximize profits. Financial institutions want everyone in debt to perpetuate their credit schemes in order to expand their control of the monetary system. And those who lust for wealth and power by seeking a one-world government want everyone working like obedient robots in order to gain control of the planet and enslave the world.

Endless, mindless growth is a cancer. Happiness comes from being satisfied with what you have, not with yearning for more, more, more.

Nobody, with the possible exception of Hugh Hefner, goes to their grave wishing they had spent more time working at their job.

Those of you wanting to work more than 30 hours per week, I’d be glad to give up some work hours to make you happy. After all, It’s better to give than to receive.

Quote for the Day -- "If you don't want to work you have to work to earn enough money so that you won't have to work." Ogden Nash

Bret Burquest is the author of 7 books, including THE REALITY OF THE ILLUSION OF REALITY and ORB OF WOUNDED SOULS (available on Amazon). He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a dog named Buddy Lee and where nothing is work unless you'd rather be doing something else.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Doom of Flight 93 -- 9/11

On September 11, 2001, the USA was under attack by Muslim Extremists whereby four passenger airplanes were hijacked -- two planes slammed into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City and another one slammed into the Pentagon Building.

The fourth hijacked airplane (Flight 93) was over Pennsylvania, heading toward the White House, but never made it.

One of my fellow University of Minnesota Alumni Association members, Tom Burnett, class of ’86, was aboard Flight 93. In the immediate aftermath of the incident, he became a national hero.

According to his friends and family, Tom was always a take-charge sort of guy. At 6’2” and 205 lbs., he had been the quarterback and leader of his high school football team in Bloomington, Minn. In 2001, at age 38, he was the senior vice president of a medical research company in California.

On September 11, 2001, he was seated in first class on United Flight 93 from Newark to San Francisco, returning home from a business trip in New York. His wife, Deena, was at home in San Ramon, Calif., preparing breakfast for their three daughters when she received the first of four phone calls from Tom aboard the plane.

In a low voice, Tom told his wife that his plane had been hijacked, someone had been stabbed and that there was a bomb on board. He told Deena to contact the authorities and quickly ended the call.

As Deena was on the phone with the FBI, Tom called a second time to notify her that the hijackers had managed to gain entrance into the cockpit. Deena then told Tom about how some commercial airplanes had crashed into the World Trade Center. Tom peppered her with questions, then hung up.

Other passengers on Flight 93 had also been in contact with loved ones on the ground. Soon the passengers began to realize they were in a serious predicament. One of the flight attendants was talking to her husband on the phone in the kitchen galley as she was filling coffeepots with boiling water to throw at the hijackers.

Tom Burnett made another call to his wife. Deena had just learned that a plane had slammed into the Pentagon and was certain it was her husband’s flight.

As she related the latest incident, Tom’s worst fears had come true. He figured the entire East Coast of America was under attack and wondered aloud if the hijackers really had a bomb. “We’ve got to do something – I’ve got to go,” he announced, then hung up.

All the passengers had been sequestered in the tail end of the plane. Among them:

* Jeremy Glick, 6-1, 220 lb., former NCAA judo champion
* Mark Bingham, 6-5, 200 lb., former rugby player on the national championship team
* Lou Nacke, 5-3, 200 lb., weightlifter with a Superman tattoo
* Rich Guadagno, California Wildlife Enforcement Officer
* Alan Beaven, 6-3, rock climber and Scotland Yard prosecutor
* William Cashman, ex-paratrooper with the 101st Airborne

Tom Burnett made his fourth and final call to Deena. The first thing he wanted to know was if any more structures had been hit. He said he had been talking to other passengers and “we’re going to do something.”

They both reaffirmed their love for each other. Then Deena asked what else she could do.

“Just pray” Tom told her, then marched off to do what had to be done.

At precisely 9:57 AM, the cockpit voice recorder began to pick up the sounds of chaos. One of the passengers can be heard shouting, “Let’s get them!” The hijackers yelled at each other to hold the door. Dishes and trays can be heard crashing about. Lots of confusion. One of the passengers shouted something incoherent. A hijacker responded by crying out, “God is great!”

Then the voice recorder went silent.

Officially, United Flight 93 "crashed" into the countryside of southeastern Pennsylvania.

However, regardless of "official" accounts of the incident, exactly how and why Flight went down remains a mystery.

On December 24, 2004, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was in Iraq giving the troops a pep talk when he went into a diatribe about what the world would be like if the USA hadn't invaded Iraq. The speech was carried live on CNN.

I was watching it while eating breakfast.

Rumsfeld recounted the series of tragedies caused by the terrorists on 9/11 of 2001 – four airplanes hijacked by terrorists, the attack on the Twin Towers in New York, the attack on the Pentagon, and so forth. In his remarks, he included a phrase about the tragedy of the airliner (Flight 93) which included these exact words about how sad it was that we had "shot down the plane over Pennsylvania."

That’s correct – the Secretary of Defense had informed the world that Flight 93 had been shot down over Pennsylvania. I nearly fell out of my chair, but was too busy jotting down the exact quote. It had been portrayed on the mainstream news that the passengers stormed the cockpit of Flight 93 causing it to crash.

The following day, a Pentagon spokesman held a press briefing to explain that the Secretary of Defense must have had a slip of the tongue during the speech.

So I did a bit of research.

From newspaper archives following the 9/11 incidents, multiple sources quoted several residents in and around the crash site near Shanksville, Pa., claiming to have seen a second plane – an unmarked military style jet.

Susan McElwain, 51, lives two miles from the crash site. She witnessed a plane overhead. "It came right over me. It was traveling real fast and low, but barely made a sound, then it disappeared behind some trees. A few seconds later I heard this explosion and saw this fireball rise up over the trees. The plane I saw was heading right to the point where Flight 93 crashed." She described the plane as a white (with no markings) military jet with two rear engines and two upright fins at the side.

Lee Purbaugh, 32, was working on a ridge a half mile away, the only person who saw Flight 93 as it came down. He too spotted a second jet. "It was white and circled the area twice, then flew off."

Tom Spinelli, 28, was working at a marina a mile and a half away. He also saw a white plane. "It was flying around like it was looking for something. I saw it before and after the crash."

Three days after the crash, the local newspaper (Bergen County Record) reported that five witnesses had seen a second plane. Dennis Decker and Rick Cheney, at work when they heard an explosion, ran outside and spotted a "mid-sized white jet, with engines mounted near the tail, flying low. It made a circle then headed out."

Government officials have continually insisted there was never any pursuit of Flight 93.

Earlier that morning on Sept. 11, 2001, two commercial airliners had crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City.

At 9:24 AM EST, NORAD received notice that American Airlines Flight 77 had been hijacked and was now heading toward Washington DC.

At 9:30 AM, two F-16s were airborne from Hampton, Va., with orders to head for Washington, DC.

At 9:37 AM, American Airlines Flight 77 slammed into the Pentagon.

At 9:28 AM, the FAA learned that Flight 93 had been hijacked near Cleveland.

At 9:35 AM, Flight 93 began making a turn toward the south. At the same time, three F-16s were scrambled with orders to "protect the White House at all cost."

By 9:39 AM, Flight 93 had completed a wide turn and was now aimed at Washington DC.

At 10:03 AM, according to cockpit recordings, several passengers had managed to force their way into the cockpit in an attempt to take back control of Flight 93.

At 10:06 AM, Flight 93 "crashed" in Pennsylvania.

Debris from the wreckage was found scattered over an 8-mile area, including a 1000-pound section of an engine fan found more than a mile from the so-called crash site. This is consistent with an external explosion that separated a half ton section of one of the engines and tore open a portion of the passenger cabin and cargo hold.

Question: How does an airplane that crashes into the ground spread debris over an 8-mile area?

Answer: Duh.

A picture can often be worth a thousand words -- so can a slip of the tongue.

The official government explanation for the series of events of 9/11 simply don’t pass the smell test -- was the madness of 9/11 really the result of 19 crazed dudes with box-cutters or was there a bigger picture?

So many questions, not enough answers.

One thing is for certain, no matter what caused the plane to crash, many of the passengers on Flight 93 were genuine heroes. They rose to the occasion, took the necessary action, fought like hell and went down in a Blaze of Glory.

On September 11, 2011, we honor their courage.

Rest in Peace.

Quote for the Day – “Anyone who challenges the prevailing orthodoxy finds himself silenced with surprising effectiveness. A genuinely unfashionable opinion is almost never given a fair hearing.” George Orwell

Bret Burquest, author of four novels, has recently published THE REALITY OF THE ILLUSION OF REALITY (esoteric knowledge) and 1111 HAPPY TRAILS ROAD (humor) -- available on Amazon. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a dog named Buddy Lee and often has more questions than answers.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Friedman on Freedom

Milton Friedman was born in New York City in 1912. His parents were immigrants from Austria. He received a B.A. from Rutgers University, an M.A. from the University of Chicago and a Ph.D. from Columbia University.

He lived through the turmoil of World War I, Prohibition, the Great Depression and the rise of fascism.

During World War II, he worked for the U.S. Treasury Department where he became disillusioned with the excesses of government and began to reject conventional economic theory in lieu of his own concepts.

"Only government can take perfectly good paper, cover it with perfectly good ink and make the combination worthless... Most of the energy of political work is devoted to correcting the effects of mismanagement of government... If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in 5 years there would be a shortage of sand." Milton Friedman

For the remainder of his life, he was one of the world's most prominent champions of individual freedom. He advocated a free market economy in which both parties would benefit in any exchange of goods and services.

"Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself." Milton Friedman

In his book, MONETARY HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES, he argued that the Great Depression was caused by government mismanagement of the money supply rather than by any inherent instability of the private economy.

"Many people want the government to protect the consumer. A much more urgent problem is to protect the consumer from the government... The power to do good is also the power to do harm... Hell hath no fury like a bureaucrat scorned." Milton Friedman

Friedman saw the problem as having unused machinery and unemployed people being keep apart by an attempt to keep prices and wages up, rather than allowing the marketplace to adjust to the prevailing conditions. The government added scores of new projects and agencies, thereby actually prolonging the depression.

"It's a mystery as to why people think Roosevelt's policies pulled us out of the depression." Milton Friedman.

In his 1962 book CAPTALISM AND FREEDOM, Friedman advocated free markets and minimizing the role of government as a means of creating social freedom. In his 1980 PBS TV Series, viewed by millions, he explained how free markets worked. His related book, FREE TO CHOOSE, demonstrated how a free market economy helps to resolve political and social problems. His writings were circulated behind the Iron Curtain before it fell in 1989.

In the 1970s, Friedman advised the communist government of China and the military government of Chile about free market strategy. He was highly criticized for his efforts, yet both countries have become economic miracles. Chile now has the most robust economy in Latin America and China has blossomed into an economic giant.

Friedman never shied away from controversy. He believed in a voucher system that would be used to pay tuition in both public and private schools, and he argued against the U.S. Post Office's legal monopoly on mail. He opposed the minimum wage laws and proposed a negative income tax to replace the existing welfare system.

"The government solution to a problem is usually as bad as the problem... We have a system that increasingly taxes work and subsidizes non-work... A society that puts equality of outcome ahead of freedom will end up with neither equality nor freedom." Milton Friedman

In 2005, Friedman and more than 500 other economists called for discussions regarding the benefits of the legalization of marijuana.

"Most of the harm that comes from drugs is because they are illegal... Every friend of freedom must be as revolted as I am by the prospect of turning the United States into an armed camp, by the visions of jails filled with casual drug users and of an army of enforcers empowered to invade the liberty of citizens on slight evidence." Milton Friedman

Although philosophically a Libertarian, he was a member of the Republican Party "on the grounds of expediency, not on principle" and considered himself to be a classic liberal, much like Thomas Jefferson.

"The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground... I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them... Most bad government results from too much government." Thomas Jefferson

Milton Friedman was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1976 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1988. Considered the most important economist of the 20th century, he died in November of 2006.

Quote for the Day -- "It is amazing that people who think we cannot afford to pay for doctors, hospitals and medication somehow think that we can afford to pay for doctors, hospitals, medication and a government bureaucracy to administer it." Thomas Sowell

Bret Burquest is the author of 7 books, including THE REALITY OF THE ILLUSION OF REALITY and ORB OF WOUNDED SOULS (available on Amazon). He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a dog named Buddy Lee and where freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose.