Saturday, February 27, 2010
Getting A Hairdryer Through Customs...
A young woman on a flight from
'Of course child. What can I do for you?'
'Well, I bought an expensive woman's electric hair dryer for my Mother's birthday that is unopened and well over the Customs limits, and I'm afraid they'll confiscate it. Is there any way you could carry it through customs for me? Under your robes perhaps?
'I would love to help you, dear, but I must warn you: I will not lie.'
'With your honest face, Father, no one will question you.'
When they got to Customs, she let the priest go ahead of her.
The official asked, 'Father, do you have anything to declare?'
'From the top of my head down to my waist, I have nothing to declare.'
The official thought this answer strange, so he asked, 'And what do you have to declare from your waist to the floor?'
'I have a marvelous instrument designed to be used on a woman, but which is, to date, unused.'
Roaring with laughter, the official said, 'Go ahead, Father. Next!'
Associated PressPublished Saturday February 27, 2010
Buffett sees end to housing slump
By Steve Jordon
WORLD-HERALD STAFF WRITER
The national slump in housing should be over within a year or so, Warren Buffett said today in his annual letter to shareholders, but prices will remain "far below 'bubble' levels, of course."
Problems will continue with high-value houses in parts of the country "where overbuilding was particularly egregious," Buffett wrote. But elsewhere, the supply of new houses will be back in line with the demand.
That's a bit of good news from Buffett, the chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. His letter, released this morning, gives a wide-ranging review of the past year's activities and insights into the economy.
He said the country has been "wise" to cut back on the number of new houses being built so that buyers can absorb the surplus of housing.
The alternatives, Buffett wrote humorously: "Blow up a lot of houses, a tactic similar to the destruction of autos that occurred with the 'cash-for-clunkers” program,' " or "speed up household formations by, say, encouraging teenagers to cohabitate, a program not likely to suffer from a lack of volunteers."
The report said Berkshire's 2009 gain in value was its biggest since 2003, a 19.8 percent increase. Buffett compares the company's performance with the Standard & Poor's index of 500 stocks, which gained 26.5 percent, or 6.7 percentage points better.
It was only the seventh time since 1965 that the index did better than Berkshire. Buffett said it's more important for Berkshire to out-perform the S&P 500 during down years than during rallies.
For 2008, for example, the index declined 37 percent, while Berkshire declined only 9.6 percent.
"In other words, our defense has been better than our offense, and that's likely to continue," Buffett wrote.
He pegged Berkshire's per-share book value at the end of 2009 at $84,487 per share, up from $70,530 a year earlier. That's a separate figure from the market price Berkshire shares bring from investors, currently $119,800 each.
Each year Buffett's letter is widely read by investors interested in his ideas about investing and observations on the economy and other matters.
Following the biggest acquisition in Berkshire history, the $27 billion purchase of Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp., Buffett said Berkshire has added at least 65,000 shareholders to its 500,000 existing shareholders. He spent much of the report explaining the companies Berkshire owns and his business philosophy -- "both a freshman orientation session for our BNSF newcomers and a refresher course for Berkshire veterans."
Among Buffett's views:
-- Berskhire has about $20 billion in cash, less than usual, because of the Burlington Northern purchase and other investments over the past year and a half. "But we sleep well," Buffett said, expressing confidence in those investments.
-- Berkshire has about 257,000 employees in more than 80 companies.
-- Net income at Berkshire was $194 million in the fourth quarter of 2009, up 65.8 percent from $117 million a year earlier, and $5.2 billion for all of 2009, up 4 percent from $5 billion in 2008. Revenue increased 4.4 percent to $112.5 billion, although many of its businesses in construction-related industries showed declines.
-- Despite sales declines due to the recession, profits improved in 2009 at nine of the company's retailers, including Borsheim's and the Nebraska Furniture Mart.
-- NetJets, which sells partial ownership of private aircraft, lost $711 million in 2009 but is "now solidly profitable." Buffett credited Omaha David Sokol, who became CEO of NetJets last August, with the turnaround.
-- Buffett expects the attendance at this year's May 1 annual shareholders meeting in Omaha to exceed last year's record 35,000 because of the expanded shareholder list. That compares with 12 people who attended the annual meeting in 1981.
Buffett issued his usual invitation to shareholders to attend the "annual Woodstock for Capitalists," adding this: "P.S. Come by rail."
Excerpts from the report:
• "When the financial system went into cardiac arrest in September 2008, Berkshire was a supplier of liquidity and capital to the system, not a supplicant."
*#149; "Almost all of the many and widely-diverse operations in this (manufacturing, service and retailing) sector suffered to one degree or another from 2009's severe recession. The major exception was McLane, our distributor of groceries, confections and non-food items to thousands of retail outlets, the largest by far Wal-Mart.
• "The major problem for Berkshire last year was NetJets. ...In the eleven years that we have owned the company, it has recorded an aggregate pre-tax loss of $157 million. Moreover, the company's debt has soared from $102 million at the time of purchase to $1.9 billion in April. Without Berkshire's guarantee of this debt, NetJets would have been out of business."
• "Dave Sokol, the enormously talented builder and operator of MidAmerican Energy, became CEO of NetJets in August. His leadership has been transforming: Debt has already been reduced to $1.4 billion, and, after suffering a staggering loss of $711 million in 2009, the company is now solidly profitable."
• "We make no attempt to woo Wall Street. Investors who buy and sell based upon media or analyst commentary are not for us. Instead we want partners who join us at Berkshire because they wish to make a long-term investment in a business they themselves understand and because it's one that follows policies with which they concur."
• "We told you last year that very unusual conditions then existed in the corporate and municipal bond markets and that these securities were ridiculously cheap relative to U.S. Treasuries. We backed this view with some purchases, but I should have done far more. Big opportunities come infrequently. When it's raining gold, reach for a bucket, not a thimble."
• "...within a year or so residential housing problems should be largely behind us, the exceptions being only high-value houses and those in certain localities where overbuilding was particularly egregious. Prices will remain far below "bubble" levels, of course, but for every seller (or lender) hurt by this there will be a buyer who benefits. Indeed, many families that couldn'tafford to buy an appropriate home a few years ago now find it well within their means because the bubble burst."
• "At the end of 2009, we became a 50% owner of Berkadia Commercial Mortage, the country's third-largest servicer of commercial mortgages. ...Though commercial real estate will face major problems in the next few years, long-term opportunities for Berkadia are significant."
• "With our acquisition of BNSF, we now have about 257,000 employees and literally hundreds of different operating units. We hope to have many more of each. But we will never allow Berkshire to become some monolith that is overrun with committees, budget presentations and multiple layers of management."
• "Our BNSF operation, it should be noted, has certain important economic characteristics that resemble those of our electric utilities. ...It is inconceivable that our country will realize anything close to its full economic potential without its possessing first-class electricity and railroad systems. We will do our part to see that they exist."
• "The big minus is that our performance advantage has shrunk dramatically as our size has grown, an unpleasant trend that is certain to continue. To be sure, Berkshire has many outstanding businesses and a cadre of truly great managers, operating within an unusual corporate culture that lets them maximize their talents. Charlie and I believe these factors will continue to produce better-than-average results over time. But huge sums forge their own anchor and our future advantage, if any, will be a small fraction of our historical edge."
• "Charlie and I avoid businesses whose futures we can't evaluate, no matter how exciting their products may be. In the past, it required no brilliance for people to foresee the fabulous growth that awaited such industries as autos (in 1910), aircraft (in 1930) and television sets (in 1950). But the future then also included competitive dynamics that would decimate almost all of the companies entering those industries. Even the survivors tended to come away bleeding."
• "....At Berkshire we will stick with businesses whose profit picture for decades to come seems reasonably predictable. Even then, we will make plenty of mistakes."
• "In earlier days, Charlie and I shunned capital-intensive businesses such as public utilities. ...Anticipating, however, that Berkshire will generate ever-increasing amounts of cash, we are today quite willing to enter businesses that regularly require large capital expenditures. ...Berkshire's every-growing collection of good to great businesses should produce above-average, though certainly not spectacular, returns in the decades ahead."
• "In 1995, GEICO was the country's sixth largest auto insurer; now we are number three."
• "Ajit's (Jain, who heads National Indemnity reinsurance) business is just the opposite of GEICO's. At that company, we have millions of small policies that largely renew year after year. Ajit writes relatively few policies, and the mix changes significantly from year to year. Throughout the world, he is known as the man to call when something both very large and unusual needs to be insured. If Charlie, I and Ajit are ever in a sinking boat -- and you can only save one of us -- swim to Ajit."
• "Our third insurance powerhouse is General Re. Some years back this operation was troubled; now it is a gleaming jewel in our insurance crown. ...Tad (Montross, who heads General Re) and his associates have developed a major life reinsurance operation that has grown increasingly valuable. ...Last year General Re finally attained 100% ownership of Cologne Re, which since 1995 has been a key -- though only partially-owned -- part of our presence around the world. Tad and I will be visiting Cologne in September to thank its managers for their important contribution to Berkshire."
• "Though last year was again a terrible year for home sales, HomeServices (the nation's second largest real estate brokerage firm, owned by MidAmerican Energy Holdings) earned a modest sum. It also acquired a firm in Chicago and will add other quality brokerage operations when they are available at sensible prices. A decade from now, HomeServices is likely to be much larger."
• "Our property-casualty (P/C) insurance business has been the engine behind Berkshire's growth and will continue to be. It has worked wonders for us."
• "In my perhaps biased view, Berkshire has the best large insurance operation in the world. And I will absolutely state that we have the best managers. Our float has grown from $16 million in 1967, when we entered the business, to $62 billion at the end of 2009. Moreover, we have now operated at an underwriting profit for seven consecutive years. ...Let me emphasize again that cost-free float is not a result to be expected for the P/C industry as a whole..."
Okay, everyone, here's what I'm going to need. First is a ticket to the
Elanovskaya railroad station. Then a Russian interpreter and enough cash
to hire some local help. Finally a dozen flatbed rail cars and cheap
passage on a tramp freighter for myself and some large objects, no
Take note of one local's comment. "There are tanks all over the forest,
abandoned. If you need one, come and get it."
A couple of T-80 tank platoons would do wonders to boost my neighborhood
firepower superiority. And I could strip extra road wheels and tracks
off the others to maintain them. Mighty kind of Mother Russia to offer
Should you 'Buy This Now!'?
Usually not, based on our tests of 15 infomercial products
Ladies and gentlemen, do you scrub, scrape, and scour baked-on crud on cookware; cry over gallons of spilled milk; fall off your ladder when cleaning gutters; and torture yourself to get a firmer fanny? Wish there were a better way?
Then stay up late tonight, rub your magic TV remote, and—abracadabra!—Infomercial Genie will save the day.
Infomercials are the Rodney Dangerfields of advertising: They've gotten no respect for their quirky hucksters, ceaseless superlatives, and corny product names since at least the early 1960s. That's when Ron Popeil pioneered the Ronco Veg-o-Matic, once claimed to be "the only appliance in the world that slices whole, firm tomatoes in one stroke. French fries? Make hundreds in 1 minute!"
But infomercials are a mighty money machine. They can chop marketing costs to as little as one-tenth the size of a traditional advertising campaign. They can slice posted prices when they lard the total bill with shipping and handling fees and other extras. They can dice consumer pocketbooks into 100 billion $1 bills a year, then miraculously sweep away that unsightly paper using patented credit-card technology.
The secret lies in neuroscience. Infomercials are carefully scripted to pump up dopamine levels in your brain, says Martin Lindstrom, an advertising expert and author of "Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy," which details how ads affected 2,000 research subjects.
"Infomercials take viewers on a psychological roller-coaster ride," Lindstrom says. The fun starts with dramatizations of a problem you didn't know you had, followed by the incredible solution, then a series of ever more amazing product benefits, bonuses, and giveaways, all leading to the final thrilling plunge of an unbelievably low price. After the ride, Lindstrom says, "dopamine levels drop in 5 or 6 minutes. That's why infomercials ask you to buy in the next 3 minutes."
"The magic of TV and film editing and shooting can make anything look good," says Christian Holiday, CEO of Global Media Marketing, an infomercial producer in Santa Ana, Calif. According to Larry Nusbaum, managing director of Vertex Capital Management and CEO of Ronco, which Vertex bought in 2008, "About half of infomercial products deliver on their promise, 30 percent do what they say but are a bit expensive, and the rest are junk."
The Federal Trade Commission focuses on the most egregious deceptions. A recent case involved pitchman Donald W. Barrett, whose infomercials promised that Supreme Greens and Coral Calcium supplements could treat, between them, Parkinson's disease, heart disease, cancer, arthritis, and diabetes, among other ills. The FTC charged Barrett and others with making unlawful claims and unauthorized credit- and debit-card charges. Last August a federal district court ordered the marketers to refund $70 million to consumers for deceiving them about the supplements' effectiveness and safety. Barrett is appealing the ruling.
In recent years, Consumer Reports has turned up a mix of "miracle" gadgets and goops that deceived, delivered, or landed somewhere in between. Read on for a roundup. Products are current, though packaging might have changed. Prices don't include shipping, which can hike the cost a lot. Freebies are often included.
But wait! Before buying any infomercial product, follow these bonus tips:
Pause 10 minutes before buying
By then, your impulse-shopping dopamine levels should have returned to normal.
Slow down the spellbinders
Whatever their length—"short form" up to 2 minutes or "long form" up to 28.5 minutes—infomercials move at an excited pace. Slow things down with your DVR remote or by watching the Internet video version. An infomercial on YouTube promises that the Hercules Hook holds up to 150 pounds. But click back and pause and you'll see three 50-pound weights hanging from three separate hooks. Do the math: That indicates each hook has only a 50-pound capacity.
Ask, "Would I buy this with cash?"
Forty percent of consumers say no, Lindstrom says, because credit cards candy-coat the fact that you're spending real money.
Consider other solutions
When we tested the "amazing" Grease Bullet for removing cookware residue, it worked reasonably well with the recommended half-hour soak, but soaking cookware overnight in hot water with dishwashing liquid produced similar results.
Listen for true "value" clues
When a pitchman cites "a $40 value," then says he'll give you two for one, that means the value is only $20—and probably less.
Calculate the real price
"Sometimes sellers make more money off shipping and handling than they do off the product itself," says Dave Lampson, CEO of From Patent to Profit, a California product-development company. "That's just part of the game." Be sure to add shipping and handling charges to the price.
Say no to upselling
Those "operators standing by" might pitch additional products, accessories, and refills—before you know whether the product even works.
Avoid shipping and handling fees
Infomercials are now a foot in the door to retail stores. Wait until the product you're interested in turns up with an "As seen on TV" sticker in CVS, Walgreens, Walmart, or other mass merchandiser, usually for the same price but with no shipping charge.
Did you know?
Why "just $19.95"? "People can part with 20 bucks without a lot of concern," says Dave Lampson, CEO of From Patent to Profit, which advises inventors. A $19.95 product usually costs $5 to $6 wholesale, says Larry Nusbaum, managing director of Vertex Capital Management, a private-equity firm.
Friday, February 26, 2010
How good is our government? A local talk radio host, Ed Henley on 700AM radio, was talking about how yesterday, he decided he would make some calls to
Then Ed decides to contact FEMA. Ed has a daughter in DC and thought suppose she was snowed in without power. What was she to do? Now FEMA is all in
Ed then wonders if all businesses are closed. So he finds a Holiday Inn 3 blocks from the capital building and calls. Guess what! Not only are they open, their restaurant is open and serving full meals. They have a full staff on duty including maid service. And the FEMA folks are staying there!
So in case of Emergency, the government can't function but Holiday Inn does. WOW!
Growing up in DC during the cold war the standard joke there was if the Russians wanted to decapitate the
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
| || |
One day, while going to the store, I passed by a nursing home. On the front lawn were six old ladies lying naked on the grass.
I thought this was a bit unusual, but continued on my way to the store.
On my return trip, I passed the same nursing home with the same six old
ladies lying naked on the lawn.
This time my curiosity got the best of me, & I went inside to talk to the Nursing Home Administrator.
'Yes,' she said. 'They're retired prostitutes,- they're having a yard
There was a man who worked for the Post Office whose job was to process all the mail that had illegible addresses.
One day, a letter came addressed in a shaky handwriting to God with no actual address. He thought he should open it to see what it was about.
The letter read:
I am an 83 year old widow, living on a very small pension.
Yesterday someone stole my purse. It had $100 in it, which was all the money I had until my next pension payment.
Next Sunday is Christmas, and I had invited two of my friends over for dinner. Without that money, I have nothing to buy food with, have no family to turn to, and you are my only hope... Can you please help me?
The postal worker was touched. He showed the letter to all the other workers. Each one dug into his or her wallet and came up with a few dollars.
By the time he made the rounds, he had collected $96, which they put into an envelope and sent to the woman.
The rest of the day, all the workers felt a warm glow thinking of Edna and the dinner she would be able to share with her friends.
Christmas came and went.
A few days later, another letter came from the same old lady to God.
All the workers gathered around while the letter was opened.
How can I ever thank you enough for what you did for me?
Because of your gift of love, I was able to fix a glorious dinner for my friends. We had a very nice day and I told my friends of your wonderful gift.
By the way, there was $4 missing.
I think it might have been those bastards at the post office.
(from this page: http://www.time.com/time/techtime/200406/list.html)
NEWS AND INFORMATION
We'll stay away from the major news organizations; you probably already have those Websites bookmarked. Instead, here are some less obvious links, including an encyclopedia of how-to advice and a Hollywood hot sheet, a lie detector and a blog-sifter, all guaranteed to keep you in the know.
LIFESTYLE AND CULTURE
Each site listed here pertains to a particular area of interest — politics, science, health, music — but they all have two things in common: great content and great presentation.
It's a small world, after all, and the Internet can make it seem even smaller. Each of these sites, in one way or another, and for one reason or another — practical, political, personal or professional — does a good job of connecting people.
TOOLS AND ESSENTIALS
Here are some new, exciting and maybe better ways to do a lot of things you probably already do — search the Web, share digital photos, consult a thesaurus, find something on a map and decide what to cook for dinner.
JUST FOR FUN
If you're in the market for new ways to waste time, you're in luck: we found some marvelous examples of flash animation, a rather odd public art installation and one bad-ass movie site, among other worthwhile distractions.
eBay.com: Wedding Dress
'It dawned on me. It's freedom' by Kitty Werthmann
Kitty Werthmann, 77, of Pierre, is president of the South Dakota Eagle Forum. She lobbies the state Legislature on family issues. She has lived in the United States since 1950 and has been a U.S. citizen since 1962.
Kitty tells this story of her arrival in the United States:
"I was processed in New York. I stayed in a hotel the first night, and the next morning asked the concierge for directions to the nearest police station. I asked if it was in walking distance, and it was.
"I walked in and told the desk sergeant I wanted to register. He said, 'What are you talking about?' I said I wanted to register, so they'd know where I was. How would they find me if I broke the law? He said don't worry, they'd find me. And then he said, 'Lady, get the hell out of here.'
"I walked outside and it was a January day with a blue sky. 'It dawned on me. It's freedom'
America Truly is the Greatest Country in the World. Don’t Let Freedom Slip Away!
This is her story
What I am about to tell you is something you’ve probably never heard or will ever read in history books.
I believe that I am an eyewitness to history. I cannot tell you that Hitler took Austria by tanks and guns; it would distort history. We elected him by a landslide – 98% of the vote. I’ve never read that in any American publications. Everyone thinks that Hitler just rolled in with his tanks and took Austria by force.
In 1938, Austria was in deep Depression. Nearly one-third of our workforce was unemployed. We had 25% inflation and 25% bank loan interest rates.
Farmers and business people were declaring bankruptcy daily. Young people were going from house to house begging for food. Not that they didn’t want to work; there simply weren’t any jobs. My mother was a Christian woman and believed in helping people in need.. Every day we cooked a big kettle of soup and baked bread to feed those poor, hungry people – about 30 daily.
The Communist Party and the National Socialist Party were fighting each other. Blocks and blocks of cities like Vienna, Linz, and Graz were destroyed. The people became desperate and petitioned the government to let them decide what kind of government they wanted.
We looked to our neighbor on the north, Germany, where Hitler had been in power since 1933. We had been told that they didn’t have unemployment or crime, and they had a high standard of living. Nothing was ever said about persecution of any group -- Jewish or otherwise. We were led to believe that everyone was happy. We wanted the same way of life in Austria. We were promised that a vote for Hitler would mean the end of unemployment and help for the family. Hitler also said that businesses would be assisted, and farmers would get their farms back. Ninety-eight percent of the population voted to annex Austria to Germany and have Hitler for our ruler..
We were overjoyed, and for three days we danced in the streets and had candlelight parades. The new government opened up big field kitchens and everyone was fed.
After the election, German officials were appointed, and like a miracle, we suddenly had law and order. Three or four weeks later, everyone was employed. The government made sure that a lot of work was created through the Public Work Service.
Hitler decided we should have equal rights for women. Before this, it was a custom that married Austrian women did not work outside the home. An able-bodied husband would be looked down on if he couldn’t support his family. Many women in the teaching profession were elated that they could retain the jobs they previously had been required to give up for marriage.
Hitler Targets Education – Eliminates Religious Instruction for Children:
Our education was nationalized. I attended a very good public school. The population was predominantly Catholic, so we had religion in our schools. The day we elected Hitler (March 13, 1938), I walked into my schoolroom to find the crucifix replaced by Hitler’s picture hanging next to a Nazi flag.. Our teacher, a very devout woman, stood up and told the class we wouldn’t pray or have religion anymore. Instead, we sang “Deutschland, Deutschland, Uber Alles,”and had physical education.
Sunday became National Youth Day with compulsory attendance. Parents were not pleased about the sudden change in curriculum. They were told that if they did not send us, they would receive a stiff letter of warning the first time. The second time they would be fined the equivalent of $300, and the third time they would be subject to jail. The first two hours consisted of political indoctrination. The rest of the day we had sports. As time went along, we loved it. Oh, we had so much fun and got our sports equipment free. We would go home and gleefully tell our parents about the wonderful time we had.
My mother was very unhappy. When the next term started, she took me out of public school and put me in a convent. I told her she couldn’t do that and she told me that someday when I grew up, I would be grateful. There was a very good curriculum, but hardly any fun – no sports, and no political indoctrination. I hated it at first but felt I could tolerate it. Every once in a while, on holidays, I went home. I would go back to my old friends and ask what was going on and what they were doing. Their loose lifestyle was very alarming to me. They lived without religion. By that time unwed mothers were glorified for having a baby for Hitler. It seemed strange to me that our society changed so suddenly. As time went along, I realized what a great deed my mother did so that I wasn’t exposed to that kind of humanistic philosophy.
Equal Rights Hits Home:
In 1939, the war started and a food bank was established.. All food was rationed and could only be purchased using food stamps.. At the same time, a full-employ-ment law was passed which meant if you didn’t work, you didn’t get a ration card, and if you didn’t have a card, you starved to death. Women who stayed home to raise their families didn’t have any marketable skills and often had to take jobs more suited for men.
Soon after this, the draft was implemented. It was compulsory for young people, male and female, to give one year to the labor corps. During the day, the girls worked on the farms, and at night they returned to their barracks for military training just like the boys. They were trained to be anti-aircraft gunners and participated in the signal corps. After the labor corps, they were not discharged but were used in the front lines. When I go back to Austria to visit my family and friends, most of these women are emotional cripples because they just were not equipped to handle the horrors of combat. Three months before I turned 18, I was severely injured in an air raid attack. I nearly had a leg amputated, so I was spared having to go into the labor corps and into military service.
Hitler Restructured the Family Through Daycare:
When the mothers had to go out into the work force, the government immediately established child care centers. You could take your children ages 4 weeks to school age and leave them there around-the-clock, 7 days a week, under the total care of the government. The state raised a whole generation of children. There were no motherly women to take care of the children, just people highly trained in child psychology. By this time, no one talked about equal rights. We knew we had been had.
Health Care and Small Business Suffer Under Government Controls:
Before Hitler, we had very good medical care. Many American doctors trained at the University of Vienna. After Hitler, health care was socialized, free for everyone. Doctors were salaried by the government. The problem was, since it was free, the people were going to the doctors for everything. When the good doctor arrived at his office at 8 a.m., 40 people were already waiting and, at the same time, the hospitals were full.. If you needed elective surgery, you had to wait a year or two for your turn. There was no money for research as it was poured into socialized medicine. Research at the medical schools literally stopped, so the best doctors left Austria and emigrated to other countries.
As for healthcare, our tax rates went up to 80% of our income. Newlyweds immediately received a $1,000 loan from the government to establish a household. We had big programs for families. All day care and education were free. High schools were taken over by the government and college tuition was subsidized. Everyone was entitled to free handouts, such as food stamps, clothing, and housing.
We had another agency designed to monitor business. My brother-in-law owned a restaurant that had square tables. Government officials told him he had to replace them with round tables because people might bump themselves on the corners. Then they said he had to have additional bathroom facilities. It was just a small dairy business with a snack bar. He couldn’t meet all the demands. Soon, he went out of business. If the government owned the large businesses and not many small ones existed, it could be in control.
We had consumer protection. We were told how to shop and what to buy. Free enterprise was essentially abolished. We had a planning agency specially designed for farmers. The agents would go to the farms, count the live-stock, then tell the farmers what to produce, and how to produce it.
“Mercy Killing” Redefined:
In 1944, I was a student teacher in a small village in the Alps. The villagers were surrounded by mountain passes which, in the winter, were closed off with snow, causing people to be isolated. So people intermarried and offspring were sometimes retarded. When I arrived, I was told there were 15 mentally retarded adults, but they were all useful and did good manual work. I knew one, named Vincent, very well. He was a janitor of the school. One day I looked out the window and saw Vincent and others getting into a van.. I asked my superior where they were going. She said to an institution where the State Health Department would teach them a trade, and to read and write. The families were required to sign papers with a little clause that they could not visit for 6 months. They were told visits would interfere with the program and might cause homesick-ness.
As time passed, letters started to dribble back saying these people died a natural, merciful death. The villagers were not fooled. We suspected what was happening. Those people left in excellent physical health and all died within 6 months. We called this euthanasia.
The Final Steps - Gun Laws:
Next came gun registration. People were getting injured by guns. Hitler said that the real way to catch criminals (we still had a few) was by matching serial numbers on guns. Most citizens were law abiding and dutifully marched to the police station to register their firearms. Not long after-wards, the police said that it was best for everyone to turn in their guns. The authorities already knew who had them, so it was futile not to comply voluntarily.. No more freedom of speech. Anyone who said something against the government was taken away. We knew many people who were arrested, not only Jews, but also priests and ministers who spoke up.
Totalitarianism didn’t come quickly, it took 5 years from 1938 until 1943, to realize full dictatorship in Austria. Had it happened overnight, my countrymen would have fought to the last breath. Instead, we had creeping gradualism. Now, our only weapons were broom handles. The whole idea sounds almost unbelievable that the state, little by little eroded our freedom.
After World War II, Russian troops occupied Austria. Women were raped, preteen to elderly. The press never wrote about this either. When the Soviets left in 1955, they took everything that they could, dismantling whole factories in the process. They sawed down whole orchards of fruit, and what they couldn’t destroy, they burned. We called it The Burned Earth.. Most of the population barricaded themselves in their houses. Women hid in their cellars for 6 weeks as the troops mobilized. Those who couldn’t, paid the price. There is a monument in Vienna today, dedicated to those women who were massacred by the Russians. This is an eye witness account.
“It’s true….those of us who sailed past the Statue of Liberty came to a country of unbelievable freedom and opportunity.
America Truly is the Greatest Country in the World. Don’t Let Freedom Slip Away!"
"After America there is no where to go"