12.27.2008

GM Cars and Trucks - I'm Not Convinced Yet

A while back I got two emails from GM executives - not directed at me, I'm not quite that important yet - but generic emails with their signature touting their good products and asking for support to pressure Congress. I'd post the entire email, but it's not all that interesting nor convincing. Basically the emails stated that GM makes many fuel efficient cars - some over 30MPG, they tout their award-winning trucks/SUVs and such - but nothing in the letter tells me why I should buy a GM vehicle.

I wrote them both back and explained that I don't buy GM vehicles for several reasons:

1) I like the unique (PT Cruiser, PT Prowler, Nissan Skyline, Toyota Prius) and the exotic (any Lambourghini) - GM has neither.

2) The few cars I would like by GM are too small (I'm very tall, need lots of leg and head room)

3) With the exception of Saturn and Cadillac - their brands have no identity as each competes against themselves

4) GM does not think ahead

Not sure if they listened. Judging from their performances on Capitol Hill, I highly doubt it. Their fuel efficient cars aren't sytlish, nor can I fit in them - with the exception of the flexfuel Silverado. But FlexFuel is a biofuel and I'm not convinced that's the answer to our energy needs. If we ALL ate well and still had extra food available for our cars and trucks, then yes I would consider it. But since we don't all eat well, using soybeans and corn for fuel only drives up the costs of those commodities for everyone.

The Volt is coming - but it's been coming for years and even wiped off the drawing board only to be resurrected once the gravy from truck sales stopped flowing. Great idea for a concept car, but what they plan to do with it won't meet my needs at all.

I'd be curious to hear from my readers what they think of GM cars. Do you own one? What would you say to someone like me who has never purchased a GM product? Would you be a good salesperson for GM? Let me know and as always -

Thanks for listening.

12.08.2008

Stop Hating, Start Congratulating

I knew this was coming, just didn't know what form it would take. Don't people have more things to do than to challenge Barack Obama's eligibility for the presidency? Apparently, this has been ripe fodder for bloggers, fact-checking sites, and certain newspapers. I just wonder what's taken so long for the chain letters to start. Maybe it started and I fortunately haven't seen it yet.

This was in the New York Times (http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/12/08/supreme-court-rejects-appeal-over-obamas-citizenship/?hp) following the US Supreme Court's very wise decision not to hear a case from a New Jersey man claiming that Barack Obama isn't eligible because he was born of dual nationalities (Mom is from the US, Dad is from Kenya/Great Britain). Another case still pending claims that his childhood spent overseas in Indonesia also makes him ineligible. Did these people ever read the US Constitution? Can these people read? If not then they should be glad Obama is in office because he is focused on education and that will help these people read and understand what the Constitution says.

Just in case anyone needs any help, the US Constitution spells out these eligibility requirements for President of the Unites States of America:

1) Must be a natural born citizen of the USA
2) Must be at least 35 years old
3) Must have resided within the USA for at least 14 years

* Please note - it says nothing about the legal standing of a person's parents, nor does it say they have to live in the USA their entire lives, nor does it say they have to live in the USA for 14 consecutive years. Obama meets all of these criteria. End of game, stop wasting your time. If you wanted to keep blacks and Hispanics out of he White House you should have sought to change these rules years ago. Good luck with that now cause it won't happen.

***

On another note, Mr. Obama was on Meet the Press on Sunday (I missed the original airing, but thank goodness for the Internet).




I was struck by his consistency, there seems to be no disparity between his campaign message and his post-election message - although the numbers are a lot bigger because we now know a lot more than we did then.

The Big Three

He was right on the auto industry, they've brought a lot of this stuff on themselves and I personally think they are only asking for this loan because the credit markets soured. They were failing long before the current economic crunch and would have continued sliding with or without a stock market collapse.

Since Rick Wagonner, CEO of GM, and his cohorts apparently have no real, sustainable plan, I favor a structured bankruptcy. As much as I hate for my fellow countrymen to lose their compensation, I'd rather see them lose their pension, health insurance premiums, etc. than to lose their jobs. Union members will have to start grappling with the same issues the rest of us face. It should be known - union members are NOT the cause of the calamity. They are merely pawns of a larger dysfunctional organziation.

GM in particular has the means to form some identity in their lineup. They don't need so many brands, and even if they did, each should have their own identity. Hummer has its identity. Saturn HAD an identity, as did Pontiac and Oldsmobile in years gone by. The top brass hasn't figured that out yet, and I highly doubt they will. They don't learn from others because they think they have figured everything out already. They pay no attention to Toyota or Honda regardless of the fact both companies seem to have American's attention. Therefore I'm not fond of giving them any cash (except to provide their workers with a comfortable severance package), unless they come up with something more than "focus on fuel efficient cars". They should have done that 35 years ago.

The Economy

Not sure if his housing plan will work, but it does make sense. It sounds like the plan is still being worked out, so I'll give Mr. Obama the benefit of the doubt.

Mr. Obama has clearly done his homework. He has taken note of when we are most prosperous - when the Great Divide between rich and poor isn't as polarized as it is today. His plan to incorporate infrastructure projects harkens back to Dwight D. Eisenhower's interstate highway project and FDR's many public works projects, both of which met its goal of putting people to work. I read in the Kansas City Star on Sunday that Republicans including the President don't like this idea because they are concerned about the $1T national deficit. No WAY?!?! They are concerned about the national deficit? Where did they get religion all of the sudden? The deficit was coming down under the Clinton administration. Mr. Bush didn't have to go through with tax cuts in 2002 when we knew darn well that war was coming (war is expensive you know). Now that a Democratic president is coming in January 2009, the GOP is concerned about the national deficit. Ladies and gentlemen, this is hypocrosy at its finest!


The World


The world should get ready for an all-new America to deal with. We are on the way back to what makes America great in the first place - our diversity, our desire for peace, and our strength of character. No more unilateral decisions without the support of our allies - with the possible exception of those that won't act when action is required (that means you Pakistan). If things go anywhere close to what Obama seems to have in mind - Osama bin Laden's days may be numbered.

Iran is a player in the Middle East, they have influence in Iraq even if they say nothing, do nothing. It is unrealistic for us to believe that Iran can have no influence in Iraq, much as it is impossible for the US not to have influence on Mexico, Canada or any other nation in the western hemisphere. So I feel that Obama is justified in wanting to talk to Iran - something that the Bush administration refused to do.

I still don't understand, Mr. Bush. How do you resolve differences without talking to the other person?

The Appointments

I told you in a previous blog that he would name a well-qualified Republican to his team. Welcome Robert Gates.

So far, the cabinet and other appointments have been impressive actually. He's following his own advice. I'm always impressed by anyone who does what they say, they say what they mean, and they mean what they say.

***

Thank for listening, I'd be very interested in what others say, so please leave me a post!

12.03.2008

Guilt by Association is Simply Stupid

This popped up on our local news, but it is of national stature, so maybe you've heard of this situation.  Virginia Republican Chairman Jeff Frederick claims that President-Elect Barack Obama has friends who bombed the Pentagon.  He was of course referring to Bill Ayers, a 1960s radical who bombed US targets in the 1960s (when Obama was just a child), but later in life gained a doctorate from the University of Chicago and was a professor there when Obama first made his acquaintence when they were both members of a school board.  


And, he won't apologize.   Mr Frederick says it was "just a stupid joke", but yet claims it is absolutely true.    Fortunately, his statements were dismissed by both Democrats and Republicans.  Even still, I find this comment divisive and very symbolic of just how low some conservatives have become.  

Mr. Obama has made clear the relationship he had with Mr. Ayers.  They were colleagues on  a project, not much more.  They certainly weren't bosom buddies.   But let's just say he was for sake of argument.  So what???

I work with a skinhead.  Does that make me a skinhead?  No.   I ride the bus with a gay male.  does that make me gay?  No.  My point should be obvious but has apparently been lost on certain people.   Who I associate with does not dictate who I am.   When people only associate with those like them we wind up with the segregationist society we've known for 300 years.  We all know, work with, play with or are even closer to people who do not share our views nor do they speak for us.   

Or maybe, that's Mr. Frederick's point.  He and others like him don't know how to befriend or accept those who are different.  Maybe Mr. Frederick is trying to say that his friends dictate who he is.  So if his neighbor embezzled $1M, then Mr. Frederick would also be a crook.  Maybe if his pastor/priest is a pedophile, that also makes Mr. Frederick a pedophile.  That's a shame if that's the world he lives in.   So let us assign his principles to other people.  

According to this logic, all of the following people are also crooked and/or criminal:

Anyone who ever worked with Congressman Tom Delay (R).
Anyone who ever worked with Senator Ted Stevens (R). 
Anyone who ever worked with President Richard Nixon (R).
Anyone who ever worked with Congressman William Jefferson (D).
.
.
.

That covers just about everyone in Washington, DC and in most states and probably includes Mr. Frederick.  So then, what is the point of trying to equate one person with another?  Why is he trying so hard to make Obama into Bill Ayers?   

A scientific theory goes that we are all connected to one another by no more than six people.  In other words if we all were to list 6 people, we could connect the dots from anyone in the world to anyone else in the world including all world leaders, the famous, and the infamous.    So that makes any "guilt by association" a rather moot point.   

Mr. Frederick ends by saying the GOP has to broaden its appeal, they cannot continue as the "old white guy party".    I guess he's making a real good start, huh?  

That's all I'm going to say on this topic.

11.30.2008

Tax and Spend Liberal vs. Spend, Spend, Spend Some More Conservative

For those who know me or have read my blogs, you know I pride myself on being fiercely independent.  I don't prescribe to any camp's unchallenged principles.  So it should come as no surprise where this post comes from.   You see, I keep hearing conservatives declare President-elect Barack Obama and the Democratic party as "tax and spend liberals".  I'm curious to hear more from these people, so I hope they will take the time to read this blog.  

First of all, it seems rather responsible to me that if I'm going to spend more money than I did yesterday, then I need to make sure I have more money coming in today.  So, "tax and spend" sounds rather responsible.   Why do conservatives like to turn it into a bad thing?   What makes their spend, spend, spend more, and cut taxes a better financial plan?  That logic is like buying a house, a boat, two cars, and a dog then going to your boss and say "please cut my salary, I'm making too much money".    No private citizen in their right mind would do such a thing, yet conservatives across the board think this is a sound financial policy for the US government.


Second, has no one paid attention that we have two - not just one, but TWO - wars going on?  I find it hard to believe that the old men in power don't realize that war, even one as contained as Iraq is expensive.  How do you pay for such an endeavor?  Osmosis?  Debt just comes and goes away like a magic carpet?  Now we have a financial crisis that we just sank $1T into (yes that 1 with 12 zeros behind it), so where will this money come from?  Please Mr. Limbaugh or Mr. O'Reilly, please explain how we get this $1,000,000,000,000,000 and counting and cut taxes, or do you not care about our children and don't mind pushing the debt off to them?   Can anybody in the GOP camp explain this to me?


Finally, the one thing that really gets my goat about the GOP direction and its hypocritical portrayal of liberals is they seem to have less vision than a blind man.   If we followed their mantra, we'd have to wait until somebody bombs us before we take terrorism seriously and put air marshalls in the sky (or increase airport security, both of which increase airline expenses), we have to wait until there's massive voter fraud before we implement a solution, we have to wait until the polar ice caps have completely melted before we acknowledge there is an environmental danger in our midst.    By that time - it is too late.  

So please somebody explain the conservative agenda to me because I'm not understanding.  Any and all comments will be welcomed and read.   

Thank you.

11.29.2008

Down with the BCS! The Pres (elect) Wants a Tournament!

Yes, and so do I!   

Why can't we have a tournment in College Football? I understand there's lots of money and contracts involved and the perennial bowl teams don't want anything to upset their cash flow. But....  The fans want a bonafide champion - someone we can all agree on, and the only way to do that is with a tournament.  The NCAA can still have their bowl games, but give me a concrete way to determine a champion.  Here's what I propose:

We'll have a 12 team tournament, 8 automatic bids from the major conferences and 4 at-large births.  To receive an automatic bid, the major conferences will have to have a championship game - that means you Big 10.  The remaining 4 at-large births would be from other conferences, and should include any Division I school that is undefeated (provided their schedule meets certain criteria).  

So, here's how the schedule would flow:
First week of December:  Conference Championships
Second week of December: Minor bowl games (all 12 tournament teams get a bye week)
Third week of December:  More minor bowl games, lowest 8 seeds in the tournament play their first game.  (top 4 seeds get another bye)
Fourth week of December:  Winners of the first round play the remaining 4 teams 
First week of January: Semi-finals
Second week of January: Championship game

This would yield several advantages

1) The winner would generally be undisputed, much like NCAA basketball
2) It will now be possible for a football team to go from worst to first (right now it takes YEARS for that to happen)
3) More people would watch more games in a tournament
4) The teams won't be so rusty (remember Ohio State in 2006? They waited 45 days between games and were they ever rusty!)
5) And yes, they can keep their bowl games intact!


The BCS seems content with the current arrangement though and that's unfortunate.  They would have a happier fan base and make more money with a tournament.  

11.28.2008

Where Do YOU Stand?

Those who don't stand for something will fall for anything


I found this site just yesterday called whereistand.com.  Very interesting as it challenges you to take a stand on the issues we face and you get to see other opinions from "regular people" as opposed to opinions from alledged experts and talking heads.   

If something is on your mind, let out on whereistand.com.  

What do YOU stand?

11.11.2008

It Has Begun

I found this story today about a teacher's aide in Alison Park, PA who apparently went on a racist rant in front of a student.  How sad this small man is even in the teaching profession, and even worse influencing kids.  

http://www.thepittsburghchannel.com/cnn-news/17956560/detail.html

Not just once, but twice, on consecutive days this fool went on with racist cantations about the nation changing the flag to the KFC flag and changing the national anthem.  

So it has begun.... The daggers are out and Jim Crow is looking for Barrack Obama.  The great irony?  Obama is trying to unite us all - haters and congratulators.  I do pray for Mr. Obama often, and I can only trust he is in good hands.  With that said, I'm looking forward to serving my country in whatever fashion Mr. Obama asks.  

To those who hate for the sake of hating - get out of our way.  The world is passing you by, and I don't really care if you get on the train or not.  I'd rather have you onboard, but if you choose to sulk and hate those who are different from you, then for all I care, you can step in front of the train and we'll run you over.  

...

I know I said I'd have only one blog about the 2008 election, but I have one more.  You see, I find watching great collapses fascinating.  I like to read the business news and watch Sprint Nextel fall all over themselves.  I like to see how bad a football team can really get (as long as they aren't my team).  You get the idea.  So it should come as no surprise that I'm fascinated by the total ineptitude of the McCain campaign.  It wasn't necessarily a classic collapse - McCain never held a significant lead in the poll, but it was still fun to watch.  

First of all, why oh why do Republicans continue to harp on lower taxes and smaller government as if the American people are stupid?   We have two wars, not just one, and war of any magnitude is expensive.  So why cut taxes for the sake of cutting taxes when you need that income to finance this "war on terror"?   If smaller government is the best of ideas, why are we issuing $1T in cash to ailing banks?  Why do we have yet another government agency in the Department of Homeland Security (remember, the DHS wasn't created to replace any agency but to facilitate sharing information between various agencies).   The GOP mantra has long been to "let the markets prevail", meaning government should get out of the way.   Why then are we interfering now?  Business involves risk - and lots of it, and companies know this.  We are making a bad situation worse with this inconsistent message.   If the Feds are to stay out of Corporate America in boom times, it should also stay out of Corporate America in bust times, or at the very least require some accountability if we are to issue "bridge loans".    

And that leads me to the McCain-Palin ticket.  I won't rehash what was previously stated in other blogs, but I would point out how fun it was to watch McCain grasp for anything in trying to get elected.   I mean, Bill Ayers?  McCain was seriously trying to link a 9-year old Obama who was probably living overseas at the time - with a radical terrorist who blew up buildings in the US.    I've watched a lot of campaigns in my time and this is the best McCain can come up with??For the record Obama was serving on an education committee with Bill Ayers - one of the first committees Obama ever served on and it was a committee supported by Ronald Reagan cronies at that.    Even McCain called Ayers a washed-up terrorist.  So then why is it such a concern?  Why keep harping on it?  

As for Sarah Palin, she was issued a royal insult and she's so gullible she didn't even know it.  Her only qualification is the fact she's a "fellow maverick" like John McCain.  Of all the very plausible female candidates, Mr. McCain chose the one candidate who not only never met a foreign leader but apparently thinks Americans are stupid enough to believe that Alaska's proximity to Russia's Siberian outback somehow gives her foreign policy expertise.  Not only was she unable to quantify her resume, making her fodder for late night TV, but she amplifies it by appearing on Saturday Night Live.   If I were a woman, I would have been quite insulted by McCain - expecting me to vote for him just because a woman is on the ticket - not because she's the best candidate for vice president.  Apparently, from some of the exit polls I read, that's exactly how Mrs. Palin was perceived by many women.  If McCain wanted to ensure history was made, why wasn't some other, more viable female politicians chosen - Elizabeth Dole, Christine Whitman, and Condoleeza Rice all come to my mind.  At least they all have something more to offer.   The point:  Palin brought nothing substantial to the ticket, just celebrity fluff.  

That'll be my last word on the 2008 election - maybe.... 

10.18.2008

Obama for President

This will probably be my one and only blog about the 2008 Presidential Race.  My vote for president will go to Barack Obama.  I'm happy to say that despite the negative ads on both sides and some rather hurtful comments from respective supporters, we enter the 2008 election with two candidates I actually like.   Past elections have always been about choosing the lesser of two evils, as such I've paid (or tried to pay) close attention to the details of what each candidate brings.

"I am not George Bush"

Really?  Well neither am I, but it wouldn't have taken me 6 months to say it.  As I've stated many times before, Senator John McCain virtually backed into the nomination by simply surviving the primaries.  Ironically, I thought he was the only Republican who had the potential to bring down Barack Obama.  So far however, he's blown it.   I don't really believe the national polls are accurate.  But it is kind of hard not to believe Obama is in control.  

I like McCain's passion, his undying dedication, and fierce independence.  But decision-making, ability to motivate people, and his age have been issues for me.   I was really hoping to see something that would make me pause and say - this could be the best choice.   He's fond of calling himself a maverick and saying he knows how to get things done and how to reach "across the aisle" to form bipartisan coalitions.  Reality says otherwise:

  • Maverick?  Yes, but that not only puts him at odds with his own party, it also isolates him without many people he can count on for votes.  He has to work 2-3X as hard to garner support from his own party than he would if he weren't such a "maverick".  History clearly shows that McCain has trouble uniting his party.  What has happened to make me believe he suddenly has the ability to unite the country?

  • Does he know how to get things done?  Probably, but with 26 years in the Senate, he'd better know SOMETHING about how government works.   But knowing how government works isn't the same as knowing how to get things done.  In McCain's case, I would argue that if he knows how to get things done then why don't we have affordable health insurance?  Why haven't our educational system improved?  Why are we still grappling with the solvency of Social Security?  Why aren't we free from foriegn oil dependence?  I'm sure he has excuses - namely the Democrats standing in the way - but during his tenure, he's had several periods where Republicans controlled both houses of Congress and we STILL don't have these most important things.  

  • He acknowledges change is needed but doesn't seem to understand that 26 years of experience in the Senate is defined to be part of the establishment, not an agent of change.

  • Is he too old?  I would hope this isn't an issue, but it is reality.  Therefore his running mate has to be smooth and polished, ready to take command in the event of the unthinkable.   I have no reason to believe Mrs. Palin is that person.  I think she would look cute in Oval Office with her red Naughty Monkey stilletos.  But I don't think she'd make an effective president.   

  • Why did he decide on Palin?  Was it to win votes or to run the country?   Frankly, I find it quite insulting that he expects me to accept a VP who doesn't even know what the VP does on a daily basis (he/she presides over the Senate, but is part of the Executive branch of government not the Legislative branch, Mr. Cheney).   She can't tell us what magazines she reads, so how are we to expect her to know how to read the actions of Russia as a legitimate threat or a bluff?   If I were Palin, I would be insulted too because I would have been set up to fail.  
The Issues: Healthcare

As for the issues themselves, again I think he is insulting the public without knowing it.   Let's look at Senator McCain's plan for health insurance.  He says with him in office we will get a $5000 tax credit so that we can buy the plan of our choice.  What he doesn't say is that $5000 is for a FAMILY, not for single taxpayers.  Single taxpayers will get $2500.  

What makes this insulting is that he's playing this harp as if a family would get $5000 in their pocket to use each year to buy insurance.   That sounds nice, but he's said this is a tax credit which is profoundly different than a tax refund.   This is more than symantics, it's a real monetary difference.  For example, 

Say Joe the Plumber hadn't bought his business yet and he makes $50,000/year.  Under McCain's plan, Joe would get a $5000 tax credit.  That makes his taxable income $45,000.  Great!  But hold on.... 

Without the tax credit, Joe would pay about $12,250 in taxes. 
With the trax credit, Joe would pay about $11,000 in taxes.  That's a savings of only $1250.  Plus.. He doesn't see this credit until April of the following year when he files taxes.  If he is unable to afford health insurance today, then he'd have to wait a year before he can even afford the insurance.  

By the campaign's own calculations, the average cost of insurance is about $7800/year per family.  Which means Joe will still be paying more than $6000/year in health insurance for his family, not the $2800 that the campaign seems to imply.  And on top of that, the government gets less money to pay for othe programs.  AND... I guarantee there would be no adjustment for inflation (in health care that's 10% year-over-year) so this $5000 credit that is already insignificant would be even more insignificant year after year.  Who wins in this situation? No one.  


The Issues: Foreign Policy

Foreign policy is an issue I think both candidates would serve us well.   They each have something to bring that would restore the trust and faith our allies have longed for.  They would do so in very different ways, but I have to give Obama the nod on this one.  Obama has a cool persona about him.  He analyzes and doesn't jump to conclusions.  Nor does he let things fester until they are out of control.  He was right on Iraq, Afghanistan, then and now.   He brings to the table a fresh idea that should be common sense: diplomacy, something the Bush administration waited until the final hour to deploy.  If we want to resolve differences with our enemies, ignoring them and slapping them with sanctions won't go very far.  Sanctions only hurt the people of the countries in question - it doesn't hurt the regime one bit.  Obama understands this and apparently McCain does not.  

The Issues: Economics and Taxes

Unfortunately for McCain the evil twin sister of Deregulation appeared just before the election.   That's bad enough, but she puts McCain and the entire Republican Party in a position to put their money where their mouth is and they choked.   You see, this whole idea of "government getting out of the way" and "let the market forces prevail" sounds good when times are rolling high.  But as soon as the road gets bumpy or even breaks apart, the call then is for government intervention.   As much as I hate to see my 401k blown to smithereens, I think the GOP should find a national policy that works in both good times and bad and either they support government assistance in the markets or they don't.  

As I see it, McCain and Republicans in general want it both ways - let the markets flow freely and when the idiots in control mess up, THEN the Federal government will rescue them so that they can continue doing stupid stuff.   Democrats and Obama specifically are clearly more suited to be fiscally responsible.  

Will McCain be another 4 years of President Bush when it comes to taxes and the economy?  Yes, without a doubt.  If McCain were president, I think he would try once again to "stimulate" the economy with another round of tax refunds.  Bush got lucky on the first try.  It barely made a blip the second go around and a third attempt would make no sense.  The fundamentals are NOT sound, Senator McCain.  Many core elements of society/economy have been falling for decades including education, technical expertise, and now we are manufacturing fewer and fewer products - much like Rome did before it fell - while trying to provide "services" to the world.  

For Obama's part, his tax policies are fair I think.  Are they designed to stimulate the economy?  Yes, and no.  Supply-side economics does work, as much as I hated to admit that when President Reagan implemented it.  However this is a different period than the 1980s.  Consumers now drive the economy, not business.  So, a tax break for the Joe the Employee is a good thing that will possibly get the economy moving sooner rather than later.  A tax increase for the well-to-do is not only overdue, but it is justified in my opinion.  We are in the middle of two wars, we need a lot of domestic things too like energy innovation, affordable health care etc. and taxes are needed.   Wall-Street types will be hit by this proposed tax increase and they deserve to pay us back for such horrid financial discipline.  

The Issues:  Education

This is the issue that brings the starkest contrast between Obama and McCain.  And it largely due to something Obama has mentioned time and again that has gotten zero press.  Sen. Obama has said on many occasions that improvement in education will require EVERYONE, not just government, not just teachers, but especially parents.  Our kids need discipline, guidance, resources, etc. things that government simply doesn't and cannot provide.  I believe in this issue quite strongly as I have watched our society get dumbed down more and more with each passing year (how many times have I seen apostrophe abuse - you know where every plural from of every word suddenly gets an apostrphe - talk about dumbing down).  McCain however wants to give vouchers to parents and hope everything works out.  

Not that vouchers are a bad idea, but like health care, education isn't necessarily a good industry that benefits from competition.  At the collegiate level yes, competition is a great thing.  At the primary and secondary level however, it is not.  ALL kids need the basic instruction and it needs to be quality instruction.  So it really doesn't matter whether Susie gets in to the best grade school - she needs quality instruction whether she gets in or not.  If she winds up at the worst school in town, not only does she pay the price in terms of her job prospects, but WE also pay if she can't read and winds up with a job that requires her to read (like a bus driver who doesn't know the difference between a yield and stop sign - an accident waiting to happen) especially if she winds up on welfare.  

The Issues: Energy

This is another example of Sen. McCain insulting the intelligence of Joe the Plumber.  You see, we have high gas prices now.  We have a rule in place that restricts drilling in the outer continental shelf (OCS) for environmental reasons.   We don't know exactly how much oil is there, nor do we know what type of oil (we make gasoline from light sweet crude oil).  We don't know where the best place is to drill.  We don't know how much it will cost per barrel to get that oil out.   It takes 10-15 years to build a new offshore oil rig or land-based oil refinery.  

So, opening up the OCS to drilling is a sucker punch to get us to vote for McCain.  If we were to open up the Alaskan National Wildlife Reserve and the OCS today for drilling,  gas prices will not come down next summer.  In fact they may NEVER come down.  Why?  Let's count the ways.

1) Companies have to research and explore the shelf to find the oil before they can start drilling.  Once the oil is found and drilling spot is determined.  A rig has to be built, manned, and deployed.  Entire process:   a MINIMUM of 10 years.  So, forget about relief at the pump next year.

2) During their research, companies will determine how much it will cost to pump that oil.  If they determine that it will cost them $80/barrel and they don't believe the world market will stay above $90, they may decide not to drill at all.  OR, if they do decide to drill, you can bet oil prices will stay at or well above $90/barrel.  So, again, no relief at the pump.

3) If the oil isn't light sweet crude, then we will see no benefit at the pump.  Oil companies will sell the crude, but it just won't be the grade that produces gasoline.  

4)  Even in the case the oil is light sweet crude,  chances are pretty high according to current estimates, that the amount of oil available and can be pumped per day will be less than 3million barrels.  That's FAR less than the 25 million barrels/day we are currently using.  By the time such offshore rigs are built we could be consuming 3X that much.  

5) China and other emerging countries are pushing demand for oil to all new levels.  By the time we have a well in production on the OCS sometime near 2020, oil demand could still far outstrip supply, causing again - no relief at the pump.  

Sen. McCain has been in the Senate for 26 years.  We've been dealing with oil dependence for 35 years.  True leadership would have made this an issue years ago - like in 1982.  But true leadership isn't what we've had in Washington or anywhere else. In his defense, if Sen. McCain has pressed for drilling on the OCS the entire time he has been in the Senate then I'm not aware of it and he hasn't stated such in any of his ads or in the debates.    Also in his defense, he is touting other forms of energy - nuclear, solar, wind, etc. - each of which also has challenges and none of which is mature enough to fully support our energy needs.  However to that I'd say he's had 26 years to make that a priority and to my knowledge he hasn't made it a priority until now.   And even still, his ideas don't involve the People.  He seems to think all it takes for government to put out incentives.  Whereas Obama knows that he has to implore people to take action, not just offer incentives.  

The Intgangibles

I've heard many people compare Barack Obama to John F. Kennedy on many levels.  I've even heard he comparison from JFK's children.  That's saying something to me.  I wasn't born yet when Kennedy took office, but as a history buff, I've learned a lot about his life and career.   One thing really stood out.  He gave us a national focus, something that we can strive for and acheive together as a nation.  That focus was to land a man on the moon and safely return him to earth.  It sounded almost loony at the time, but we made it happen and it was a very proud moment.   What is remarkable about this national focus is that it wasn't war.  So often case the only time we are focused as a nation is to end a war (with the exception of Vietnam, Operation Desert Storm, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and whatever we call the conflict in Afghanistan).  

Sen. Obama wants a national focus for us as well.  That focus is to create a new industry - alternative energy - that will save us in many ways.  When we reach that plateau we will have:

  • Less carbon emissions/greenhouse gases so as to reduce global warming

  • New jobs

  • A new economy

  • oil independence, which by definition leads to better national security
Obama is inspiring.  He makes people want to take action and he doesn't pretend that government has all the answers.  I don't know how he would have handled 9/11 and its aftermath, but it seems to me he would have asked us all to sacrifice something in order to get this mission over with swiftly and effectively.  I have a strong suspicion that he wouldn't have allowed our soldiers to go for very long without armor on their HumVees (if you recall, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld declared that the company couldn't produce any faster or any more than they have; truth is the administration never asked).  If the defense contractors couldn't produce fast enough, Obama proabably would have issued an executive order creating a new plant  or hiring more workers, whatever it took to get the job done.  

Sen. McCain does not inspire me - with the exception of his experience as a POW.  He hasn't asked anything of me except to quietly go about my day while his administration fixes things for me.   That kind of government has never worked.  


....

So, with 16 days to go, I have to say my mind is made up.  Obama is my choice.  He's a leader, not a politician.  

8.11.2008

Cancer Insurance? These Jokers are Serious!

(With all due respect to cancer patients and their families and friends, this blog post has NOTHING to do with the disease or the caretakers or the doctors or hospitals. Like many, many other health concerns, cancer is a serious a grave issue - not to be taken lightly. The focal point of this blog is the economics of insurance and overall health care)

1

Where I come from, when you say something stupid, you'll get talked about - more like embarrassed - for years or even decades to come. Just ask my sister. She made a mathematical error while keeping score in a spades game (we take our card games very seriously) 14 years ago and she's been paying the price ever since. Now she's a teacher - a math teacher - so she gets ribbed ever more.



The stupid saying this week comes from none other than Mutual of Omaha Insurance - you know, the company that sponsors "Wild Kingdom". They sent me a letter that says "Application for Cancer Insurance". It's not even a sales pitch, just an application, that presumes I need or want cancer insurance. The price is reasonable $12/mon for a family, although it doesn't say if it is for a family of 5 or a family of a 100, but that's not the point.



What's so stupid about this? Well, let me count the ways..



1) I can't afford regular insurance for ailments I know I already got! What makes Mutual of Omaha think I want to pay them for something I don't have yet?


2) Even if I did pony up $12/mon for my family to get "cancer insurance", what kind of solicitation would I get next month? Luekemia insurance? Alzheimer's insurance? Or how about in-grown toenail insurance? Why not? To them it would make sense to break down this ridiculous $600/mon insurance I pay for a family into components that way I can pay more money to more companies but make it look like I'm paying less.


3) I'd really like to know where they got my name from. My family tree has very few incidents of cancer (maybe 2, one of which was by marriage), so it would be most beneficial to Mutual of Omaha of me to buy this insurance when it is very likely they would never have to pay a claim. Shrewd marketing - if I were dumb enough to buy it.


4) If I buy Cancer Insurance, what is my regular insurance for then? I understand supplemental insurance, but even that is supposed be general. Why on earth would anyone place a bet on what ailment they might get?



Now that I got that off my chest, I will say this - I didn't read this 5 page application. If I had cancer, or thought I might get it, then this would be heaven sent - I think. But I highly doubt this company can make any money if I started paying $12 premiums today and turned in $12,000 claims tomorrow. As emotional as health care and health insurance is, we have to remember these companies are in business to make money. They are not, will not, and shall not accept charity. That's why companies are all too willing to provide podiatry insurance for a Gulf War veteran who lost both feet in an IED attack. But will refuse to pay for a life saving operation with only a 30% chance of success for a young lady in the prime of her life.



SOLUTIONS
* As much as I hate to say it, the only solutions that I have found in other parts of the world are of a socialists variety. The government in some form or fashion provides the service, caps the costs, or pays the costs. For the US, I think that means a goverment FUNDED health care - but with some serious rules applied. I'll explain those later, but for now suffice it to say that if you want health care costs to keep rising then it must remain in corporate hands. If you want health care costs to come down, then we need someone OTHER than Corporate America in control.

More details on that on my next blog. Until then...

Peace, and Mo' Grease!

7.12.2008

Wanted: Nuclear Researcher to Develop Cold Fusion Process and Save US!

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB121432182593500119.html?mod=2_1586_topbox


I'd be remiss if I didn't mention energy on this blog. Last week (actually June 30), The Wall Street Journal ran an interesting piece on nuclear power and alternative energy. Although not the best piece of work I've ever seen by WSJ, at least it touched on a wide range of alternative energy options most of us wouldn't have ever considered. And it included a "debate" over nuclear power - as bullet-ridden as the arguments were. In any event, it is a good read, not a great read, for anyone interested.

Let me first point out something I've mentioned in other blogs - we've had 30+ years to address this matter. WE are all at fault. Consumers are at fault (yes we are) because we didn't demand fuel efficient automobiles after the previous gas price spikes dating all the way back to 1973. As soon as gas fell to acceptable levels in September, we forgot all about the pain at the pump in June. Government - specifically those individuals in office - is at fault too. Elected officials could have been leaders as opposed to being politicians. They could have forged a way around our oil dependence - but they didn't because they aren't concerned about America as much as they are about their careers. It would have been politically incorrect to require 50MPG from trucks and SUVs in the 1990s (a very achieveable goal had we started in 1973 or even 1979). Automotive companies are at fault too, even though they did nothing more than satiate our thirst for bigger, badder, and more powerful cars and trucks. They saw the writing the on the wall but chose to ignore it. Now they are paying the price along with the rest of us.

So, shame on us. But that's not the main reason for this post.

I wanted to talk mostly about WSJ's Micheal Totty story about the pros and cons of nuclear energy. His article missed the biggest point of nuclear technology while focusing exclusively on the current state of nuclear energy. Unfortunately I don't know who Michael Totty is, but his arguments on both sides have holes, but like all controversial topics - both sides are right. Which means the correct answer lies somewhere in the middle.

Nuclear technology in its current form clearly won't wean us off fossil fuels. As the "Con", Totty correctly points out that it is quite expensive to build nuclear plants - regardless of who pays for it (i.e. private enterprise, taxpayer, or combination of both). Even if the resources were there to build, it would take years - even decades - to complete such projects. The "Con" also points to the safety issue, which is where one of the holes lie. Safety issues exist in any form of power generator or energy creation - the fact that it is a nuclear facility doesn't make safety somehow "more important".

The "Pro" Totty probably never designed anything himself. If he did, he'd know better than to say this: He states that nuclear plants are economically feasible. Yet in the very next paragraph says that loan guarantees and other federal incentives are needed (as a means to calm fears of cost overruns). If loan guarantees are required, then nuclear plants aren't economically feasible. Further, he says regulatory and political delays push costs into the stratosphere, yet can't seem to come up with any hard numbers of by how much. Does it increase costs by 50%? 100% 200%? He doesn't know because such data probably doesn't exist. Which leads me back to my assertion he never designed or planned anything himself (like purchased a car or a house). Lenders and financiers can and should know exactly how much a nuclear plant costs to build - under perfect conditions at the very least. Which means they know that a plant will cost NO LESS than $X.XX B. That would at least be a starting point.

"Pro" Totty does however make a point by acknowledging the shortage of parts and skills. Even if the plants were built who would man them? There's only so many people and companies capable of building let alone working the complex machinery inside of a nuclear power plant. I mean no offense to any of my countrymen, but a lot of us who have lost jobs a manufacturing plants aren't cut out for technical jobs - if we were we'd already be technicians.

Apparently the safety issue is lost on both the "Pro" and the "Con". Improvements have been made - yes. Can accidents still happen - yes. But the concern for the public is a matter of perception. Kind of like a mid-air plane crash. People are scared to death of a mid-air crash on a commercial jet even though they are 1,000 times more likely to be in a car crash on the way to or from the airport. Why? Because the damage can be so catastrophic so quickly and completely out of the control of the individual. Plus there's no safety net once the accident occurs. All you get is lap belt and a flotation device - which doesn't help when you're free falling 18,000 ft above Kansas. As compared to an auto-crash where the individual has some control, damage isn't always catastrophic and in most cases just bumps, bruises, and maybe a broken bone. A nuclear accident is viewed much the same way - which is WHY Hollywood made "The China Syndrome" (not because Hollywood-types are a bunch of liberals). People know what a nuclear bomb can do. So we don't want to find out what a real accident at a real nuclear plant can do. That's why the public is so resistant to new plants, or even existing ones. The actual safety record really doesn't matter.

"Pro" makes note of the reinforced concrete used, fewer possible equipment parts to fail, radiation containment, all in an effort to make sure incidents like the fictional one in "The China Syndrome" would never occur. The fact is, any and all safety processes, any and all safety product designs in any and all industries under any given circumstance can be and will be circumvented by someone at some point. They will get away with it time and time again, they will teach others to get away with it, knowingly or unknowingly. Eventually the official processes get re-written because the top brass won't understand why the rule was there in the first place and then BAM an accident. History is full of them. The biggest and most prominent example - The HMS Titanic (1912). Other examples: ValuJet Flight 592 airline crash over the the Florida Everglades (1996); BP Oil Refinery Accident (2005); the list can go on forever.

Then there's the BIG question of waste - which is the other reason why nuclear power isn't the solution to our global energy needs. "Pro" Totty seems to think it is okay to swap one environmental problem (carbon emission/global warming) for another (toxic waste) just because the radioactive waste takes up such a small space (a football field 5 yards deep). That's an absurd argument. How do you think consumerism got started in the first place? Someone thought it was perfectly okay to throw trash in some unused corner of the world, and next thing you know we literally have mountains of trash in various parts of the world! That line of reasoning isn't sustainable long term, especially if "Pro" gets his wish of more and more nuclear plants built.

We're talking radioactive waste, so it is far from having a biodegradable trash bag in a landfill or something.

***

So, the answer is?

RESEARCH! That's right research. Nuclear research holds the promise of energy nirvana actually. You Star-Trek fans know what a replicator is. You may or may not know that a replicator is a nuclear reactor. It takes atoms of various elements and puts them together to create whatever item you ask it to create (nuclear fusion). The reverse is also true - whatever you don't want anymore also goes into the replicator (nuclear fission) where the item is separated atom-by-atom and stored until somebody needs something that requires those atoms.

What makes our current nuclear technology so bad is that we can only harness the nuclear power of certain atoms - uranium-236 to be precise, which becomes radioactive after the process if I remember my science correctly. The process involves separating one electron from the outer shell of the atom, creating an isotope. Anyway, the uranium cannot be used again so we have waste which has to be disposed of or stored somewhere.

What if we could reverse the process and slam the atom back onto the uranium atom? We could then neutralize the radioactive waste we have. (We'll call this Nirvana 1). Unfortunately right now, that requires far more energy than we would ever get out of the process, for that matter, for more energy than we can produce to put into the process in the first place.

Then, if we could do that, what if we could use other, more common elements to generate this nuclear process - something isn't so volatile after the process - like say hydrogen or carbon? Or better yet, what if we could use ANY element or complex molecule to extract nuclear energy from? We could then obtain energy from our existing landfills! Clean up our earth AND get clean energy at the same time! (Nirvana 2).

Again, this is Star Trek fantasy stuff. Although not impossible, just not possible right now. Only with research in this field can we get anywhere close. Will a replicator ever look like a common vending machine that anyone can operate - probably not.

Thanks for visiting my world

CT

5.31.2008

Revisionist History? Mr. Rove Would Know - He's a Pro!

From the Wall Street Journal this week. Just had to write about it....
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB121201747075327643.html

You smart people might have noticed this commentary on WSJ.com was written by none other than Karl Rove - former Senior Advisor and Deputy Chief of Staff for the President Bush. That should have been enough to stop me from reading it but, I couldn't help it........

Why is it that Mr. Rove thinks his world is the same as everyone else's? Just because he doesn't have any real friends, just because he would disown someone over a difference of opinion or some statements they made, just because he's ultra sensitive to the shallow nuances of public office (such as always wearing some derviative of red, white, and blue), doesn't mean the rest of the world is just as shallow.

The "revisionist" history - a word I'm sure Karl knows very, very well - he speaks of regarding Mr. Obama is sadly mislabeled. As I read the WSJ commentary, I was struck by the fact that each "revision" Mr. Rove cited was in fact consistent, with each "revision" shedding light on the situation.

In my world, there are many people with whom I have had a long-standing relationship, but we don't see eye-to-eye on all things. And in fact we may be polar opposites. So when Mr. Obama says that he didn't agree with Reverend Wright, but he would not disown him just because it is politically advantageous to do so, I understand. Karl Rove has never had such a friendship so he can't understand.

When Mr. Obama says that he wasn't present at the time the remarks were made, he is simply stating a fact. It does not change his original statement that the Reverend is like family. It simply means he wasn't in the congregation when the alleged statements took place.

Again, in my world, my friends, my pastor, even my family do not speak for me. I speak for myself. However, in THIS country my friends, my family, my pastor all have a right to say what they want. As a consequence I don't hold anyone responsible for what their family or friends say. Therefore Mr. Obama owes me no apology. This is something a Washington insider cannot possibly understand for all of his relationships are connected to money and power - nothing else.

Senator Obama offered his denouncement because he wanted the world to know that he thinks for himself. It wasn't a necessary explanation for us real people. But it was necessary for those like Mr. Rove or anyone else who can't separate the man from the company he keeps.

I don't know about Mr. Rove's intent or ambition, but I'm assuming he's still stumping for Republicans. If so, then I would advise him or the Republican Party to nix the attacks on Clinton and Obama. His "insight" carries no weight particularly among independents like myself. McCain needs all the help he can get in getting his message out. So Mr. Rove would best serve the GOP and America by trumpeting McCain's message instead because every word out of Rove's mouth or hand makes me more likely to vote for Obama or Clinton.

----

Now for a lesson in what "revisionist" history really means.... To revise history is to contradict what has been previously known. It can also mean to "muddy the details" of what is not known. In any event, documenation or proof is essential in showing that the revised history is indeed correct. In Mr. Rove's case - he muddied the details surrounding his involvement with leaking the name of a CIA operative to the press. Neither his horrid memory nor shoddy documentation proved his point.

In Obama's case, one statement has not contradicted a previous one. He is allowed and will likely change his mind about some things, but an outright contradiction isn't likely. For example, he wants to open a dialouge with our rivals, particularly Iran and Venezuela. That does not mean he'll do so blindly. So it is very likely he would push each nation for some concession before visiting them. The point is, he will make every effort to address the concerns of nations like Iran and Venezuela - two nations vital to our energy supplies - in an effort to bring peace and stability.

---

For the record, I'm fiercely independent. Every public official must earn my vote for I do not just give it freely to Democrats, Republicans, Greens or any other parties under any circumstance. I vote for whomever I think makes the best leader. As noted in a previous blog - I do not vote for politicians, I vote for leaders.

5.18.2008

Charter Communications - Gotta Love It!

Okay, I'm being facetious.....

This month features two ridiculous stories about Charter Communications here in Charter's hometown -St. Louis, MO.

First my mom's.... This is just what I know about. My mom is notoriously thorough when it comes to asking questions. When she ordered service from Charter, she asked the kind of questions she always does - how much, how long is the promotion, what happens after the promotion ends, etc. So she knew that she was getting a promotional offer, and actually created her budget based on what the non-promotional price would be. She was told the non-promotional price for TV, Internet and phone would be $75 or less.

Imagine her surprise when her bill topped $150. She called to complain and was told that her promotional time expired. When my mom complains to a company it's usually not a complaint as much as it is a declaration that she is unhappy and she's only paying $XXX and not a dime more. Anyway, she talked to a supervisor who agreed to accept the $75 payment, however the rest of Charter Communications never seemed to get the message. She's received at least 10 phone calls, 2 late notices, and every time she calls she's told they don't have record of that payment.

Services were scheduled to be disconnected, so Mom said "Go on, cancel it!" which wasn't a dare, but a request because she was tired of spending the better part of a week on the phone with these people. She calls me to tell me that her phone number that she's had for more than 30 years may soon be disconnected. I told her not to do that yet, because there are other landline carriers other than Charter and ATT (which she can't stand either of them). I suggested she call them back to stop the cancellation order and gave her the number to Birch Telecom to get service from them.

Mom called Charter back and was glad she did. The company magically found the check - 11 days after she mailed it, and restored service. Now Mom is ticked off because they didn't do what she asked them to do. Just took it upon themselves to assume that payment received = services restored. Because of the problems Charter is giving her home phone service for 1/2 price until September - just long enough her to find another provider!

***

Now for my story which actually happened in March 2008. I had Charter Expanded Cable TV and their 5Mbps Internet service. Which, aside from the usual installation hassles I've been satisfied (more like pacified). Looking to cut expenses, I called to reduce the TV service to Basic Cable and increase my Internet service to 10Mbps since I use the Internet now more than I watch TV. I called on a Saturday.

The following Tuesday, my Internet wasn't working. We had a storm or two in the area so I didn't think much of it. By the end of the day, Internet still wasn't working so I called Charter to find out why. This rather pleasant but woefully uneducated woman proceeds to tell me there are service outages in Missouri. Instead of looking up my address in Windows Live or Google Maps or something, she asks me are any of the following cities in my area. The cities she mentioned spans the entire eastern half of Missouri. I would think with that kind of outage it would have been on the news. Nonetheless, I let it go as a plausible explanation until I could find evidence to the contrary.

The next day - my evidence came. I spoke with several of my neighbors who also have Charter and all of their Internet services are up and running. So, I called Charter back, and the man who assisted me tells me my services were disconnected on Monday. Since I didn't request a disconnect and my bill is paid in full (actually overpaid) I asked who requested the disconnection. The man said I did on Saturday. Shocked and now ready for a fight, I asked for his supervisor which he promptly obliged.

Fortunately for the supervisor, he was quite apologetic and professional for I was ready to slice and dice him. But because of his professionalism I lost my steam and didn't cut him like I wanted. it was rather late in the day - almost 5.30pm so I knew getting a tech out to my house that evening wasn't likely, but I demanded it anyway. My services were disconnected because somebody didn't listen. So if that puts a technician over his work hours - tough noogies.

Charter has a convoluted method of dispatching technicians. They have to call some central processing center - usually a dispatcher from one of their contracted technicians - so Charter is in no position to address any emergency very readily. Yes the technicians have cell phones, but Charter isn't allowed to call them.

Anyway the sup I spoke with told me that IF he can get someone to my house today it would the Internet technician. TV techs were booked for the next 7-days. I told him to keep the TV service turned off and get my Internet up by the Thursday afternoon. He then said that a tech will be here between 9-1 and asked if anyone would be home. I said "No. You didn't need me to be home to turn off my service so you don't need me home to turn it back on". He then proceeds to tell me that they have to check the computer to make sure it works. To wit I replied the computer works just fine. I don't have Internet because it was turned off at the Charter box. Besides the technician can't do anything on my PC that I can't do and I don't want his grubby hands on my keyboard anyway.

That morning at about 9.30, I did indeed get a call from a tech who apparently was working quite hard. Although I appreciated his promptness, I was rather turned off by the fact he didn't receive or didn't read the ticket. He asked me when I would be home. I told him I'm not going to be home the ticket was to fix the box. Whatever has to be done to the PC and my home network I can do that myself. He obliged and I had Internet when I got home. Thank goodness I didn't have class assignments to turn in....

Then, there's more......

About 2 weeks after I got service back up and running I get a call AT WORK asking me if I wanted to get Charter TV. I don't like the fact he called me during work hours to begin with, but I wish I had more time to make my point clear to this knucklehead. I told him he had a lot of balls to call me asking for service. When I asked for basic TV service they cut if off. Now that I don't have it they want me to get it. Which is it? Do they want my business or not? Anyway, I proceeded to rapidly run down what transpired, told him I have no interest in getting Cable TV, he then interrupted me saying "it's only $5/mon", as if he's too stupid to understand that I wouldn't take it they paid ME $5/mon. I finished my story, thanked him for calling and hung up before he could reply.

Anyway, it has been more than a month since I've had TV in my house. I can still watch movies and such. Have to admit it's nice doing something other than vegetating in front of the TV each day after work.

Just Vote - Please...

It never ceases to amaze me how many people will complain about everything under the sun, but refuse to vote. If you feel taxes are too high, we're spending too much time in Iraq, and your child isn't being educated - vote the bums out! If you don't vote, who's to blame? The bums who are still in office or you? I say you. At least if you vote, you've made your point known.

Now who you vote for isn't as important to me as the fact you vote in the first place. But at least decide if you want a politician in office or if you want a leader in office. The difference is sublte yet profound. A leader takes us where we have to go to get to where we want to be. For example George Washington led us through the Revolutionary War (though not as president) - a battle many didn't want to fight but it was necessary to procure our independence. Abraham Lincoln could have simply let the South secede from the Union but opted not to because he realized our nation was much stronger together than apart. John F. Kennedy risked war with the Soviet Union in an effort to get them to back down. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, made the US look at itself in the mirror to see the injustice she inflicted on her own people. The point is each of these men did something that at the time may not have been well-received, yet was necessary and in the long run we have been better because of it.

A politican is essentially a puppet. He/she does whatever the electorate says to do and if that turns out to be a bad decision then they change their minds to say they made a mistake. My favorite example is the late Governor George C. Wallace of Alabama. In 1963 he stood on the courthouse steps to block two black students from attending the University of Alabama and to block integretion of Alabama public shools by delcaring "segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever". Yet, by 1983 not only was he governor again in a state that was forced to integrate its schools, but he integrated his own cabinet!

So choose carefully and remember - life is what you make it..... So make it a good one!

1.12.2008

Judge Others as Ye Would be Judged

This will be a long post. Partly because I get so incensed about this topic at times, and partly because it is quite a serious issue as many "leaders" are expousing hatred toward our fellow man. Whether they realize it or not, that's exactly what they are doing.

Terrorists: http://www.patrobertson.com/speeches/TerrorismEconomicClub.asp
Priests: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=17728112

First, the reason for this post. I really HATE when people take a "holier than thou" attitude. I even hate it when I do it. It's not the proper way to behave, besides a little humility will teach you a thing or two. These two stories listed above are mere examples of a much larger picture. As I get into detail, you'll see what I mean.

The article from Pat Robertson points out the basis of Islamic terrorism. Although he points out that he knows many peaceful Muslims, and that he is not indicting an entire religion, the rest of his monolouge says otherwise. For starters, the Quran cannot be translated properly into English. There are too many words and phrases within the Arab language that have no English equivalent. Many have tried to tranlsate, but it loses significant meaning when translated and in some cases says the opposite in English as it would in Arabic (for example, the prophet Mohommed was a businessman, not a warrior). A true follower must learn Arabic in order to understand the Quran. And judging from Pat's bio, I highly doubt he has learned Arabic, let alone has read the Quran in Arabic.

Just for comparison, Catholics did the same thing for many centuries - read and discussed the bible in Latin so as not to lose its meaning. However, unlike Islam, Catholics caved in to secular pressure to translate to English and in the process lost some things in the translation. (Did Moses part the Red Sea or the Sea of Reeds? That's an imporant distinction if we are to understand and believe biblical stories)

The point to this post isn't really to challenge the specific details of each article listed. It is to point out the hypocrisy of the Church. I picked Pat's article at random, but I found many others of the same substance. They all claim to prove that Islam is an evil religion by citing tale after tale of murder and hatred of America, and some twisted interpretation of the Quran. However, I can find nothing in the evangelical world that makes simliar claims about Christians. Not surprising of course, but if I were to use 9/11, the attacks on US embassies abroad, the attack on the USS Cole, the Bali nightclub bombing and daily attacks on US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan as proof that Islam teaches violence and terror, then in all fairness I have to take into account the unending list of priests abusing children, the unstoppable crime and murder in the West, the attack of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, OK, the decades of intimidation by the Klan, as modern proof that Christianity also teaches violence and terror. But Christians, particularly TV evangelists, won't acknowledge those things. And if they do, they write it off as a small segment of people who do not properly represent the faith we call Christianity.

Why then use a small segment of Muslims to represent all of Islam? We cannot and should not.

Holy jihad does not mean holy war. It can include war, but jihad is not a direct translation to "war". It means effort. In other words, "holy jihad" can mean talking, helping through manual labor, campaigning, and yes even war if necessary. Western media unfortunately has solidly connected "jihad" with "holy war" in the American pysyche. The words "by any means necessary" should ring a bell to many older Americans. It was Malcolm X's famous words regarding obtaining equal rights for black Americans. White America intrepreted this phrase to mean war, possibly because that is the only thing they knew of. Black America interpreted this to mean marching, protesting, boycotting, letter writing, speaking, campaigning, rioting, fighting - whatever it took - including war, if necessary. Just like "jihad", Malcolm's words means much more than what mainstream Americans expect it to mean.

Want more hypocrisy? Well staying with the civil rights theme, would you believe that a church in Southeast Missouri used to accept only white people, now accepts people of all colors? Not so strange is it? What is strange is that 50 years ago the pastor of this church told two little black girls that they could not enter the church because it was for people going to "white heaven" and they were going to "black heaven". Now, at what point did God decide to integrate heaven? I didn't realize he was subject to Affirmative Action and Fair Housing laws. This church accepts all colors now because society accepts all colors. You would think a church of all institutions would have accepted all of God's children in the first place.

The point - church, particularly mainstream Christian churches - don't take the lead in our society. It follows whatever wind secular society blows. Another example - women. Not long ago, women in this society were to be seen and not heard. They were told they couldn't be pilots, lawmakers, business owners, stock brokers, athletes, etc. They had to stay at home or do "women's work". The church reflected this sentiment by not allowing women to hold seats of power at the church, let alone become ordained ministers. Society came to its senses and now women are enjoying at least some freedoms to fulfill their potential and now, the church has followed suit. Women are now pastors and ordained ministers and often take leading roles in many churches. Again, why didn't the church allow this in the first place?

I can go even further back.... During the 17th-19th centuries, the church not only turned a blind eye towards the slave trade, but in many cases embraced it. In America it was very common for churches to set up shop on a plantation and try to convert the slaves to Christianity. But instead of highlighting the Exodus, they downplayed Moses' feat and taught slaves it was wrong to run away from their masters. Further, it was abolitionists of the North who took the lead role against slavery in America - not the pulpit. Some churches took an active role, but most mainstream churches in the South wouldn't dare oppose the establishment.

Want more? Well I'll save that for another day. Suffice it to say, examples go all the way back to the 3rd century. In fact it is still happening today. Right now, gays and lesbians are widely considered sinners in most denominations and thus are frowned upon as church leaders. The logic for that disgust is that the bible says explicitly that homosexuality is a sin (unlike racism and sexism where there is no such explicit statement). Sooner or later, as secular society becomes more and more comfortable with gays and lesbians running things, the church will change its tune. It will then turn to the teaching of Jesus who accepted all people, regardless of their past. And once again the church will be a follower, not a leader.

I saved the obvious statement for last. I think the church behaves this way to maximize attendance by making the congregation more comfortable with what it has to say. A church full of Klansmen isn't going to emphasize that all men are create equal and are accepted by God. A church full of Americans isn't going to declare communism as more "christian" than capitalism. The Churh is not terribly interested in solving serious problems. Let me retract that, they are interested, but the congregation isn't interested in making wholesale changes to their lifestyle. They want to do little things, and as a result we get very little results in return.

Thanks for listening.

Supreme Court Weighs in on Voter ID

I found this article interesting. Here we have a state doing what most people want it to do - serve and protect - in this case the voting process. Somehow they wind up at the Supreme Court defending their right to require photo IDs to vote.
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=17942818


Although I personally wouldn't have a problem showing photo ID (I carry my driver's license everywhere), I can fully understand how and why some people would take issue with photo ID. Believe or not some of us don't drive - either because they don't want to, can't afford the expense, or not allowed to. They may not have a need for a state ID because they don't buy liquor or if so aren't carded, they don't use checking accounts, or maybe simply don't want any record of themselves in any computer system (a good way to prevent ID theft if you think about it) etc. So why pay the state for an ID they don't need? Therefore requiring a photo ID to vote is tantamount to charging a fee to step into the booth.

So I can accept that, but what really got me going was the argument from one of the attorneys for the plaintiff.

One attorney in this case is trying to make a point that Indiana must prove there is a problem (in this case voter fraud) before passing a law to address it. That's a dumb argument. You lock the doors to your house BEFORE you get robbed, not after. You install a fire extinquisher BEFORE the house burns down, not after. It may seem strange, but even government is allowed to be pro-active.

One thing is for certain, we must have a means to allow only eligible voters to vote and keep fraudsters out. The best way to do that at the moment is with photo ID.

With that said, the state should provide photo ID without charge for anyone who needs it. Proof of citizenship would then be the next issue, which can be resolved either by presenting a birth certificate or a copy of last year's income tax return. Even that may be too complicated for some state workers. If you'll note in the article one woman was turned away 3 times because the birth certificate she presented was not in her married name. I guess that means if she had forged her birth certificate she'd have an Indiana ID card now. It would be funny if it didn't trample on her right to vote.

1.06.2008

News Flash: God Created Evolution

I read this from NBC (was also on Nightly News) http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/22493477/. It's about a new book produced by scientists who dismiss creationism. It sure won't settle any conflict anytime soon. And that's what I find so silly.....

What is so difficult to believe about God creating life and using evolution to do it? Last I checked (and yes I've read the entire book of Genesis) there are no blueprints, designs, recipes, etc, detailing exactly how God created life. It simply says he did it. No other explanations given or required.

If you still don't believe God created evolution and think that he could ONLY create life the way it is described in countless Hollywood productions, then consider this. The Bible says that God created man and from his side created woman. If you follow that literally, that means God placed Adam on the Earth - a complete being, then chopped him half and used that half to create woman. Using that description, Adam is now dead, having only half of a body. The Bible doesn't say how or if Adam got his side reattached.  Now, considering that the Almighty One does things as he pleases - not just in ways we can understand, it is entirely possible that He produced life this way.....

God could have created a simple protein, incubated it until it became an embryo that featured what we now call X and Y chromosomes.  From that embryo He took half of one set of chromosomes (i.e. Adam's "side"), incubated the X chromosome until it produced Eve. There's nothing I can find in any holy text stating this is NOT possible. If anyone does have proof this explanation is impossible I'd like to see it.

If my contrived process is possible, then it should also be possible that God created life in any of thousands of ways, most of which we cannot comprehend. One of those possible ways is through what we know of as evolution.

First of all, theology isn't science and science isn't theology. If schools are to be required to teach theology next to evolution using the pretext of "alternate theories", then why stop there? Why not also teach the theory that the Earth is actually the center of the universe, that gravity doesn't really exist, and that there are other way to find the length of the hypotenuse of a right triangle other than the Pythagorean Theorem?

Second, let's take the very definition of 'evolution'. The word comes from the base word 'evolve' which means literally "to change". That means it describes the process of going from A to B. But it does NOT describe how or where A came from. It simply says that once A exists then this series of things happened and B was born. I'm simply contending that both the original item A and evolution were each created by The Almighty One.

Third, this entire argument is a very good example of just how poor our understanding of science in general is. I'd bet most people who object to evolution on religious grounds but have never taken anthropology wouldn't know the difference between the common-use word "theory" and the scientific definition of "theory". The differences are very signifcant. What a horrible example for our future scientists!

And so, now that I've had my say, nothing will change... But at least I got this off my chest!

NPR Topics: News