Tuesday, December 30, 2008

About the bailout...

Now that the government has decided to bailout GM and Chrysler, and in light of the news that the financial corporations who have already received bailout funds refuse to disclose exactly where the money went and how it was spent, I have made a personal decision.

Some of you may remember that I recently purchased an American-made auto. I had been a Toyota man for much of my life but I decided to go American with the commitment that I would continue to buy American as long as I was happy with the quality of the product. This was their chance to win me over for life.

Well, so much for that.

I am so disgusted with the behavior of our auto industry, in particular the executives and the labor unions, that I have decided to never buy a GM or Chrysler product again. And if Ford accepts federal money I will add them to the list as well. I will be in the market for a new truck soon and it seems that my options have just been narrowed.

And for the record, I bank with a local bank that is not involved in the financial mess. The same goes for my 401k, IRA and other investments. I will remove my money at once if I discover that any of them accept federal money as part of the bailout. I figure since our elected representatives have no interest in the will of the people regarding this matter, then I have no interest in doing business with these agencies. One way or another I'm determined to have my voice heard.

I'm not calling for a boycott. I'm simply documenting the action that one citizen has decided to take against this monstrosity that Congress has decided to shove down our throats.

So be it.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Nothing funny about it

After reading the countless reports on the recent attack on President Bush, I am now ready to make a few comments. I admit that the media never ceases to amaze. Just when I thought the American mainstream press couldn’t get anymore biased, I read the accounts of this incident that are filled with near-glee. It’s almost like the liberal press was happy to see the President of the United States treated with such disrespect in a foreign country that thousands of American soldiers have died to free.

The attacker describes himself as someone who hates war and violence, a rather bizarre and contradictory position to take for someone who hurls a shoe at the head of another human being. For the record, he has a poster of Che Guevera in his home. Guevera was responsible for the death of over 14,000 people, many of them women and children. Yet, he is adored by radicals and the anti-establishment folk. I mention that just to give you an idea of what kind of person attempted to harm President Bush.

I wonder how this would have been portrayed if Barack Obama were the target of the shoe.

I also wonder what would happen to this man had he thrown his shoe at Saddam Hussein during the butcher of Baghdad’s dictatorial reign. No, actually I don’t wonder that because I know what would have happened. The guy would have been dead before the second shoe hit the ground. Yet, he is still alive thanks to the freedom that he has been granted via the blood and treasure of the American people, whom Bush was representing in Iraq when this attack occurred.

And speaking of Hussein, let’s not forget that he was responsible for the death of 300,000 Iraqis during his 24 year rule. Some estimates place that number as high as a million. So if he were still in power over the past 6 years he would have murdered at least 75,000 people. I think the people of Iraq should pause to remember that the next time they feel the urge to throw a shoe at the man who removed Hussein from power. The Iraqis are starting to behave like the French.

As for the Liberals who have yet to voice any whimper of criticism towards the perpetrator, shame on you all. Regardless of political party, regardless whether or not you agree with him, George Bush is still our President. This attack was disrespectful on many levels, and was an insult to all Americans, especially those who have lost a son, daughter, husband or wife fighting for these people to have the freedom to voice civilized opposition to those with whom they disagree. There is nothing funny about it and I challenge the patriotism of anyone who celebrates it, ashamed to call you a fellow American.

And, yes, I will feel the same if this ever happens to Barack Obama.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A fat tax?

New York Governor David Patterson is proposing a new tax to help close their massive budget deficit. Some call it the obesity tax or fat tax, basically it’s a 15% levy on non-diet soft drinks. If this becomes law, a Coke will cost you $1.15 while a Diet Coke costs $1. So does this make sense?

The conservative in me says that taxation is inherently bad, just another way for the government to make up for their budgetary mismanagement. If they need money, they can find it by spending cuts. But the capitalist in me says that if you want to discourage bad behavior then increasing the price on such behavior is the proper way to go, and the market will allow things to properly settle. It has worked to some degree with smoking as the huge taxes on cigarettes have helped many people at least cut back if not quit completely. So why not do the same for bad food?

I’m actually okay with this kind of tax. Obesity is becoming the number one health problem in this country and childhood obesity has reached epidemic proportions. Latest estimates show that 20% of children are obese. That’s appalling. These same children are being diagnosed with adult-onset diabetes before they turn 20, and some are developing coronary artery disease before age 30. Obesity brings with it many other health problems, things like osteoarthritis, hypertension, asthma, infertility, chronic fatigue, high cholesterol and depression/anxiety just to name a few. This translates to higher costs for health care and if those patients can’t afford it then these costs are passed on to the general consumer. Indeed, in my opinion, obesity is THE number one health problem in our country. Eliminate it, and we eliminate many, many other medical problems.

The beverage association points to two studies that supposedly link diet soda to obesity, as though to claim that the tax targets the wrong thing. Disregard these studies. The data in question shows that people who drink diet soda are more likely to be obese than those who don’t. This would lead some to conclude that diet soda causes obesity. That’s not a proper conclusion. In order to draw such a conclusion, you’d have to structure the study in a way that includes people of similar genetic backgrounds, fed the exact same diet, on the exact same exercise program, with the exception being one group gets diet soda and the other gets something else. Then you follow these people over time to see who gains more weight. That’s not what these studies did. They simply gathered statistical data on the general population that showed obese people are more likely to drink diet soda. All that tells me is that obese people are more likely to diet than non-obese people, and drinking diet soda is often part of dieting. I’m sure I could produce a similar study that shows that people who drink slim fast are more likely to be obese, yet are we prepared to say that slim fast causes obesity?

So if you want to tax soda then that’s fine with me. A typical 12 ounce soda contains about 120 calories, more than 10% of our recommended daily caloric intake, more than you’ll find in a typical light beer. Drink 3 or 4 a day and you’ve consumed 40% of your daily calories without taking a single bite. And this doesn’t even address the basic metabolic effects of sugar and what it does to insulin levels. Yeah, sugary soft drinks are most definitely contributing to our health problems. The state of Texas has eliminated soda vending machines in their public schools. Good riddance. There is no doubt in my mind that this new trend of over-diagnosing attention deficit disorder is in some way related to the amount of sugar intake these kids are experiencing. It just makes sense. A child hopped up on sugar is going to have difficulty concentrating, focusing and paying attention in class.

So I say tax it, but don’t stop there. Why not tax other things that are problematic? I’d levy a tax on fast food, candy, potato chips, sugar and high fructose corn syrup. But the powerful food lobbies would never allow it, and the dems would hardly support it claiming that it would unfairly tax the poor. Bull.

It’s funny how we so easily demonize tobacco, yet seem to have little problem with a super size menu at the local fast food joint. I could make a strong argument that eating off that menu is worse for your body than smoking. But something tells me that argument would fall on deaf ears. But one thing’s for sure: If we don’t take action to stop the obesity epidemic in America we’re going to see a massive increase in health care costs, a drop in life expectancy and declining worker productivity. That will make it hard for us to compete with countries like China, which doesn’t seem to have this problem.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Rangel...and the time for a third party

On a day when the Governor of Illinois has been arrested for allegedly attempting to sell Obama’s Senate seat, I would like to shed some light on another corrupt individual. Charlie Rangel is the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee and he has been up to some rather shady dealings. Here is a list as reported by TIME magazine (hardly a member of the vast right wing conspiracy):

Recently paid his son $80,000 in campaign funds "for a pair of political websites so poorly designed an expert estimated one should have cost no more than $100 to create."

He claims to simultaneously occupy 4 rent controlled apartments in Manhattan, paying less than half of the going market for rent in each

While doing this, he also claimed homestead exemption for a house that he owns in Washington DC

Failed to report $75,000 of rental income to the IRS for a villa that he owns in the Dominican Republic

According to the New York Times (also not part of the vast right wing conspiracy), he was “instrumental” in preserving a tax loophole for an oil company whose CEO contributed $1 million to a school in NYC bearing Rangel’s name and supported by Rangel

All of this is going on while Rangel continues to serve as chairman of the committee that writes our tax codes and is responsible for funding the nation’s entitlement programs. The NYT has asked Rangel to step down from that position while his ethics investigation is ongoing. Rangel has refused and claims no wrongdoing, and has even written a scathing letter denouncing the Time’s irresponsible reporting, thus giving credence to the notion that the corrupt are not sorry for their transgressions as much as they are sorry for getting caught in the process.

Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker who hasn’t hesitated to use her power to strong arm opponents and exert maximal control of her caucus, has stopped short of chastising Rangel and has yet to take any action on the matter beyond calling for a conclusion prior to Obama’s inauguration. Pelosi is the same person who took office in 2006 promising to “drain the swamp” in Washington with sweeping ethics reform. Also of note: Chris Dodd and Barney Frank have yet to be investigated for their involvement in the Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac collapse.

Ethics reform? Give me a break.

So here is what I would like to see. It’s evident that corruption spans both political parties and is so deeply entrenched in Washington and elsewhere that replacing one party with another will get us nowhere. So now is the time for a viable third party. I would like to see a split in the Republican party, with a new group of young conservatives leading the charge in forming a new party separate from the old guard, with a new agenda that maintains American traditionalism while turning away from the old ways that spark kickbacks, palm greasing and the same old DC ways; an agenda that seeks to return power to the people via local government while reducing power in Washington. What was it that someone said about power, corruption and absolute power?

The leader of this movement would find some willing ears among the moderate “blue dog” Democrats who are about to be isolated by Pelosi’s congress and Obama’s spend-happy administration. Recently, Obama hinted that the pay-go rules may be suspended for a while, not something the blue dogs will be eager to support. And these Dem moderates are very much a part of American traditionalism and preserving the things that made America great. The fringe Left has become the dominant force in the Dem party, thus making the blue dogs potential allies for a new party of American traditionalism.

It has become clear that our government is now one of elites, run by a class of people with vast wealth who abuse their office for personal gain with little interest in common Americans, seeking to expand their wealth regardless of the best interest of the country. Often, these people are voted into office by people who seek the same, with campaigns funded by industries with similar motives. A wise man once said the democracy fails when the population realizes they can vote themselves rewards from the treasury. The government should always be of the people, for the people, by the people. Does anyone out there think these words are our current reality? Me neither. Now it’s more like of the elites, for the special interests and the entitled, by those with the means to fund a campaign.

We have a lot of problems to deal with, problems created by government and in many ways magnified by it. Both parties have been in control at one time or another in the past century, so for one to blame the other is ludicrous. For the voters to believe that only one party is at fault is even worse, taking naivety and blind partisanship to a new level.

The two party system has failed because both parties are corrupt and unwilling to serve the people. Power is what they want and there is simply too much of it in Washington. This must change. The balance of power must be in the favor of the people, by local government. The further government is from the people the more corrupt it becomes. In 2010, I want a third option, made of people who serve for the purpose of serving, not for personal gain. This may be idealism at it’s finest, but that’s the only way things will improve in this country and it’s the only way to keep us from complete domestic disaster.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Notes on the past week

A few things to comment on in the past week:

Obama has nominated Hillary for SecState. Turns out the Constitution forbids her from serving. Why? The rules say that any member of Congress who is in office when cabinet salaries are increased can not serve in any of those positions in the future. Pay raises were approved by Congress early last year. But don’t hold your breath. Dems are already saying that this won’t be a problem. There have been “work arounds” in the past and no one expects this to prevent Hillary from becoming Secretary of State….Yeah, it’s only the Constitution, no sense letting that keep us from business as usual in DC

Yesterday, Obama announced that he will not seek a windfall profits tax on oil companies. He says the price of oil has now dropped low enough that it will not be practical to impose such a tax. WEP will officially call this the first broken campaign promise, and it may be a record. We’re barely in December and the President-elect is already going back on what he promised his supporters. This only proves what I suspected all along, that Obama does not represent a “new kind of politics”. He is just like any other politician, willing to say or do anything to get elected. But don’t fret too much my Lefty friends. Bush pulled a fast one on us conservatives as well, promising to act like a conservative and then governing like a liberal Republican. It happens to the best of us. But does this mean that Obama plans to do away with his middle class tax rebate? After all, he promised to pay for it through the windfall profits tax, so he will now have to either break that promise or just print more money so he can write those rebate checks.

In light of broken campaign promises, WEP is eager to see what Obama does about Gitmo. He promised to shut it down, but will soon learn just how difficult that’s going to be. I mean, it’s not like Bush enjoys having a prison camp in our own backyard. The problem is: What do you do with those people you’re holding? Turn them loose in society? Expedite them to their home country? It’s easy to criticize from the outside, but things change once you’re calling the shots. My guess is that Obama doesn’t close Gitmo. Something tells me he’s too much like BJ Clinton in that he will pay lots of attention to polls, and Americans won’t approve of letting all those people go.

Speaking of polls, recent tabs show that 61% of Americans oppose bailing out Detroit. That’s comforting. Giving the Big 3 federal money would be akin to investing in Worldcom the day after the accounting scandal was uncovered. They have failed, bankruptcy is inevitable. Let’s down flush taxpayer money down with them. Many auto companies have failed in the past. Remember Tucker, Studebaker, American Motors? It’s a tough business. There’s absolutely no reason why the federal government should try to keep these poorly-managed companies afloat. And the UAW should understand something: When you demand a labor agreement that forces the Big 3 to pay workers $70 per hour in wages and benefits while the competition pays $40 per hour, then you have damaged your job security because you have forced your employer into a position where they simply can’t compete with the competition. Seems like common sense to me.

Finally, I have always considered Al Franken a propagandist slimeball, so his recent behavior doesn’t surprise me. But I am surprised at how the American people – particularly Minnesotans – are willing to sit back and let this guy steal a Senate election. His Dem friends in polling places are “discovering” lost ballots on an almost daily basis, yet Franken wants to challenge votes for his opponent because the bubble was not completely darkened in. One election official finds a box of uncounted ballots in his trunk well after the initial results were in…because, you know, it’s so easy for ballots to accidently be misplaced in someone’s trunk during a close election. Of course, this discovery favored Mr. Franken, big surprise there. More recently, Franken has asked the US Senate to intervene in the process. It doesn’t matter to him that the US Senate has no jurisdiction in the matter, it only matters that the US Senate is 58% friendly to him.
When you couple Franken’s behavior with that of ACORN, the debacle in Washington a few years ago and, of course, Al Gore’s attempted coup in 2000, you can’t help but wonder if our election process carries any legitimacy at all. I mean, Fidel Castro gets elected with 100% of the people’s vote. How far are we from that kind of vote tally?