Saturday, January 04, 2014

Notes on travel

I agree with the people that say that Americans don't travel enough.  Oftentimes, people set their opinions based upon what they know and if they've never seen anything outside their local neighborhood, it's tough to broaden their horizons.  That goes for folks who have never left their hometown to go away to college or folks who have never left our borders.  And I don't consider a cruise or all-inclusive hotel where you don't really experience the country as 'travel'.  Yes, you go through customs and all, but let's face it:  Your experience is extremely controlled and protected.  Your biggest risk is drinking the water and getting Montezuma's revenge.

I have spent a considerable amount of time outside my country's borders.  I was a Marine and that sent me all over the world.  I also traveled for work which took me to various countries as well as all over the US.  All that having been said, there are a lot of myths or misconceptions that I have experienced over the years that I disagree with wholeheartedly and this is my entry to at least begin a discussion about this.  WARNING:  This may contain sweeping generalizations and some stereotypes, but are all based upon actual experiences that I have had.

I find the myth that Americans are rude when we travel, ridiculous.  The "ugly American" stereotype is ridiculous and generally based upon our ability to get what we want when we want it here in the states.  However, when in other countries, we generally attempt to assimilate.  Yes, there are rude people from the states, just like there are rude people everywhere.  There are self-centered people everywhere.  Being from the US doesn't uniquely qualify me as rude, nor does it mean that I will be as such.  While my experience have been anecdotal, I have seen many cases where people from the host country are rude as well as people who are fellow travelers.  The whole idea that we insist that others speak English to accommodate us is ridiculous.  English provides a central language for the host country to speak to keep them from having to learn Japanese, Cantonese, Mandarin, English, French, Spanish, Russian, and Arabic.  It's just convenient for us Americans to have them speak it, but no one insists upon it.  In fact, when I tried to speak Italian to anyone (while I'm sure my Italian is horrible), they would speak to me in English.

For example, Italians have no idea what standing in line is.  If there's a line, they will act as if they are looking at something in the area, while sneaking in front of everyone who has been standing in the line politely.  Unless they are called out, they will cut in front of everyone.  And sometimes, when they're called out, they act as if they had no idea there was a line a half-mile long.  Eastern Europeans were good at this as well.  I have found that Brits and French people queue quite nicely and politely.

Also, subways....I have experienced subways in many cities, but nowhere else have I seen the subways like in Rome.  While I've never been in an avalanche, I think I can speak to the experience after having been literally picked up and pushed into the back of a subway car by a wave of people who were trying to get onto the car and to the Vatican for Christmas blessing.  Little old ladies, kids, priests, nuns, all pushing, shoving, and generally not considering that some of us were moving as fast as the crowd in front of us would allow.  They wanted on the car and would not let anything stop them.

Honestly, I found that the Americans we ran into were some of the most polite folks I have met during my travels.  Walking down the sidewalks, we could identify the Americans by who quit the game of "sidewalk chicken" first.  Italians, French, Asians, all would walk two or three wide on sidewalks that were barely wide enough to go two-wide.  Americans were often the ones who would risk their lives by stepping off the curb and into the street long enough to get past those throngs of giggling Japanese schoolgirls or Italian teens who apparently got their fashion sense from Jersey Shore.  (NOTE TO ITALIAN TEENAGERS:  Jersey Shore has been cancelled.  Even if it was still running, those people are douchebags not to be emulated.  Any resemblance to real life human beings is completely unintentional.)

Note to guys trying to sell me knock-off Gucci, Louis Vuitton, and other bags:  Do I look like a 'man-bag' kinda guy?  Seriously?  Stop it.  If I want to buy a knock off for my daughter, I'll buy it, but not because you tell me how great a deal it is.  Same with you guys outside of the restaurants in all the bigger cities in Italy.  I can read your menu.  I don't need you to tell me how awesome your restaurant is.  In fact, from my experience, if your restaurant needed someone outside it hawking your grub, it's sub-standard and not worth feeding to my dog.  Speaking of sub-standard and not work feeding my dog:  Canonica in Venice.  Avoid it like the plague.  And Gusto Leo in Florence.  Not as bad as Canonica, but close.  And unless you're in a restaurant that has a good wine list, don't order the table-wine.  it's generally blech.  Stick with something that is a little better quality.  You'll thank me later.  There are, of course, exceptions to this rule, but I found that when the place was lower budget, their wine was as well.  

And since we're talking about food, here's a quick run-through of my trip to Italy:  awesome food in Rome, Ninos, near the Spanish Steps.  Their calamari is the best I have ever tasted.  Ever.  Fucking, EVER.  Amazing.  And if you ever get a chance to try 'razor clams', do it.  They're quite tasty.  Grilled, with some olive oil and lemon.  Marcy definitely pushed her comfort zone with some of the things she tried the last two weeks.  Some successfully, some not so much.  But I was proud of her for trying.

Bottom line:  Everyone should travel.  Experience life.  Experience the world.  And come home with a greater love for everything that we have so much of in the states.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Interesting scam

So, people who are active on Facebook are getting these emails from random people who are obviously not remotely associated with Facebook:

You'll notice the lack of capital F in Facebook as well as the "message from Administration".

Obviously not legit, but still it looks good enough to fool probably 50% of the people out there at least.

Be careful folks.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Monkeys, My Butt, and Politics.

Anyone sick of the political ads yet?  Even though I love politics and love this season, this particular election has been especially irritating.  There's absolutely no reason that President Obama should be remotely close to winning this election.  His record is one of destroying jobs, not creating them.  Putting our military in harm's way, not bringing them home.  Weakening our presence overseas, not strengthening.  Caving to international trade pressure, not strengthening markets for American products. 
Yet, the pablum candidate on the other side, Mitt Romney, can't seem to get any traction.  His middle of the road, moderate campaign doesn't seem to excite anyone, nor does he offer much in the way of alternatives to the current administration.  Yes, I get it, that some things will change, but will they really be things that matter?  Will Mitt REALLY stand up to the Chinese in regards to their tariffs on our goods exported to them (yes, we do actually export things to them) or will he continue the tradition that President Obama started by bowing and allowing them to do what they want?  Will special interests still run the presidency, just different special interests?  Instead of unions running the show, will it be investment bankers, the chamber of commerce, or some other master?  Welcome the new boss, same as the old boss.

We need fundamental change, but change is hard.  Change is uncomfortable and painful.  No one can run on a national platform of "We're going to change, and it'll be painful, but in the long run it'll be better".  Long view doesn't exist in America where 30 second soundbites lose the attention of the people halfway through.  No one can say "We're going to cut the waste out of government and here is EXACTLY how we'll do it" and present a specific plan, because those who will be affected by the cuts will scream bloody murder.  That's why Romney hasn't been that specific in his plans.  You can't blame him.  If he is to defeat the Chicago Machine that is in the White House now, he'll need every single vote he can garner, and giving people specifics as to how his presidency will cut money from their pet projects will not help him get those votes.  Additionally, in this hyper-partisan environment, anything that the other side can do to gain an advantage, they are definitely going to take advantage.  If that ends up hurting the country in the long term, so be it. 

The system is broken and no one in power will fix it because it isn't to their advantage to do so.  If we fix this broken system, people like Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Mitch McConnell, Barack Obama, and the rest, no longer have power.  Power is like a drug, you'll do anything to keep it, including subvert the stability of the government.  These people have been doing that for years, under our noses.  But, let's face it, it's not their fault.  We have given them the power to do this.  The American people have allowed these power-grabbing assbags to put themselves into a position to gain advantage through any method necessary.  And have we stepped up to stop them?  Ever?  Perhaps the Tea Party movement is one where you can say that the people rose up and said 'enough', but that was quickly demonized by those in power, and the American people bought into the media/power structure's labeling of the Tea Party as 'racist', 'sexist', 'radical', etc.  Really?  Radical?  Is it radical to want our government to stop spending more than they bring in?  Is it radical to want the government to stick to their fundamental responsibilities and nothing more?  Is it radical to want the people to have the power again, and not some faceless bureacrat who can't be fired no matter how incompetent?  I don't think so, nor does the average American when asked.  However, because the Tea Party threatened the existing power structure, suddenly it was 'radical'.  Then co-opted by the Republican party, which could have been advantageous to the party, but instead they relegated them to the back of the proverbial bus.  The Ron Paul movement could have revolutionized the Republican party, but instead of co-opting their ideas and bringing it into the mainstream of the party, they relegated them to the back of the bus as well.  If the Republicans lose this election, they'll only have themselves to blame for the idiotic handling of these two extremely involved, and motivated groups.

It's time for a revolution.  Not a shooting one, because that would only result in the slaughter of innocents, given that the government has exponentially more firepower than those of us who would stand up to them.  But a thought revolution.  One where people think for themselves and are more interested in voting for President than for the American Idol winner.  And this is essentially an easy revolution to have.  All we have to do is to get our neighbors to pay attention.  I don't mean just in October/November of an election year, but all the time.  Don't ignore politics outside of the election cycle.  Call your senator/congressman/president when you think they're being an idiot.  Or call them when you think they're doing a good job.  But make sure they know that you're watching.  And that your neighbors are watching.  And your neighbors' neighbors.  And their neighbors.  We need to hold them accountable for what they're doing and stop suckling at the government teat ourselves.  Stop complaining when someone says "Hey, we need to cut out this pet project" even if it brings tax dollars to your city/state/county/whatever.  And give the politicians hell when they try to waste our tax dollars on such idiocy.  Maybe if we do this, we'd see a return to fiscal sanity as well as a government where it's ok to give details about plans without having to worry about offending a special interest group because we're going to cut out research on the mating habits of the Southeast Asian Speckled Butterfly.

And maybe monkeys will fly out of my butt.

Monday, October 15, 2012

New Obama advertisement

Narrated by Morgan Freeman (one of my favorite actors....sir, please stick to acting as politics obviously is out of your league), the new advertisement for President Obama has the following text:
Every president inherits challenges. Few have faced so many. Four years later, our enemies have been brought to justice. Our heroes are coming home. Assembly lines are humming again. There are still challenges to meet, children to educate, a middle class to rebuild — but the last thing we should do is turn back now
Now, I acknowledge that the challenges that President Obama has faced have been numerous:  War in Iraq, War in Afghanistan, poor economy, housing in a freefall, unemployment, and consumer confidence waning.  However, is this any different than any other president?  Bill Clinton is the only president that I can think of who faced very few crises during his presidency.  With Bill, the economy was humming (and yes, even at the beginning of his presidency, the economy that had stagnated under George Bush was picking back up).  Foreign policy issues under Clinton?  Oh, fire the occasional missile at Iraqi fighters violating the no-fly zone, but nothing major.

And "our heroes are coming home"?  Holy hell man, there are still over 300,000 military personnel deployed overseas.  How is that "coming home"?  That's barely under the number that George W. Bush deployed during his terms, but he was called a 'war-monger'. 
"Assembly lines are humming again"?  Where?  In China perhaps.  Not here.  The unemployment rate has been over 8% for the majority of your presidency, sir, how the hell can you possibly claim that assembly lines are humming again?  Not only that, but if you have your way, the increased expenses imposed on small businesses will cause a slowdown that makes the most recent recession look like a walk in the park.

"Children to educate"?  Indoctrinate, more likely.

Seriously, didn't this guy ASK for the job four years ago?  Now he's whining because being president is HARD?  Waaaah...someone call a waaaahmbulance. 

Take off the skirt, Mr. President.  It's going to interfere with your golf game.  And no one wants to look at those bird-legs of yours anyway.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Michigan Votes

So, this post will be for my Michigan readers.  Anyone who doesn't live in Michigan is more than welcome to read it, but most of you could likely give a rip as to what sort of crap we're voting on here in the Magnificent Mitten.

Proposal 1:  Here in Michigan, we have what is called an "Emergency Manager Law (EML)".  In a nutshell, if your city, county, township, or school district has been so amazingly mismanaged that you have very little money left to run your governmental body, the state government will appoint an emergency manager to 'take over' the running of your organization.  Proposal 1 is a referendum on that law.  It makes us decide whether we should continue to allow the governor to appoint these emergency managers or whether to allow the elected politicians to continue.  This law originated under the previous governor, a Democrat, in an attempt to help the Detroit School District, city of Flint, city of Benton Harbor, and all kinds of other areas.  Apparently, the unions are perfectly fine with a Democrat appointing an all-knowing/all-seeing financial leader of a governmental unit, but once there is a Republican governor, they want to repeal it.
I am basing my vote on this upon the performance of the law.  Thus far, the areas that have been affected by the EML have continued to function, some of them have improved their performance.  Detroit Public Schools and the City of Benton Harbor have actually been moving toward a better financial position.  That's all I need to know.  The fact that the unions are pissy about the law is an added bonus.  Anything I can do to piss them off definitely gets my vote.  So, yes on prop 1.

Proposal 2:  In an attempt to ensure that Michigan does not follow Wisconsin in their renegotiation of contracts with governmental employees, the government union employees have pushed this turd onto the ballot.  This allegedly protects collective bargaining by ensuring it's part of the constitution.  Unfortunately, most people in the state don't realize that collective bargaining is already protected in a number of laws.  This proposal is just a union power-grab for the teachers union and government employee unions.  It essentially repeals laws that have been passed over the past few years that have allowed school districts to fire teachers who violate the laws or public trust with the students.  It would make it much more difficult for school districts and lawmakers to adapt as times change.  It also would prohibit any law that gives workers the freedom to choose whether or not to join a union.  Needless to say, I'm voting against proposal two for multiple reasons, the biggest of which is pissing off the unions.

Proposal 3:  The environmental lobby has proposed a constitutional amendment to require that by 2025, Michigan will generate at least 25% of their electricity from renewable sources.  While in principle I agree with this, to write it into the constitution is a horrible mistake.  Just like we shouldn't write drivers license rules into the constitution, we shouldn't write energy policy into the constitution.  Additionally, the cost of electricity in Michigan is already higher than the surrounding states, for multiple reasons.  We already have a target of 10% by 2015 and should continue to work toward higher amounts, but as of right now, the technology just isn't there to keep it affordable.  Our families and companies aren't in good enough shape to take yet another increase in costs.  No on Proposal 3.  Not sure if there are any unions I'm irritating by this, but if there are, BONUS!

Proposal 4:  I've already posted my position on prop 4.  The SEIU forced unionization onto home healthcare workers.  Most homecare workers don't make very much and to force them to pay union dues, seems overbearing and idiotic.  See my older post for more reasons to piss off the SEIU.

Proposal 5:  Prop 5 would require a 2/3 vote of the legislature to pass any tax increases.  Ok, so here I'm going to have an issue.  I don't like the fact that we have to have 2/3 of the House/Senate to pass an increase, but a simple minority can lower taxes.  Yes, I love lower taxes and want to see less taxes in the state.  However, I think that this could be an issue going forward as economic situations change and it doesn't allow our lawmakers the flexibility they need to clean up the tax code.  They would need a 2/3 majority to get rid of loopholes and complicate the budget process.  We've had a history of budgetary idiocy here in Michigan, so any level of complexity added to the process will continue to cause financial issues here.  I like the idea, but I don't like the law.  No on Prop 5.  I wonder if that'll piss off the UAW.....hmm....

Proposal 6:  We have one bridge in Detroit to Canada, the Ambassador bridge.  It's owned by Matty Maroun.  Who would think that an independent entity could own a piece of transportation infrastructure?  But he does.  And he's pissed that people are going to possibly use someone else's bridge (if we build it).  This proposal requires that any future construction of international crossings be approved by the people via a vote.  Even if it doesn't cost them a damn thing in tax dollars.  The current proposal for a bridge has Canada footing the bill for the entire construction project, making up the costs in tolls.  I don't see a problem with this and in an article I just read, apparently the UAW is aligning themselves with Maroun.  If that's not reason enough to vote against 6, I don't know what is.  No cost to the Michigan tax payers AND we get to piss off the UAW?  Oh, where do I sign up?

Monday, October 08, 2012

Mitt is no conservative

Today I read an article where President Obama's team is attempting to present Mitt Romney as being "right of even George W. Bush". 

I find this amusing, since absolutely no one with any sort of actual intelligence could ever, ever, ever, call George W. Bush a right-wing conservative.  He's barely a conservative by strict measure of the word, given his promotion of growth in government to the point of ridiculousness.  Let's look at a few things:

Medicaid Part D:  Seriously?  Would a right-wing conservative ever had passed this turd?  Yet, somehow Bush is categorized as a conservative, despite creating a program that we'll spend $723 billion on over the next five years.  Absolutely nothing about this program reflects anything conservative or right-wing.

Homeland Security Department:  This utter waste of time, effort, and money is yet another money-grab that no self-respecting conservative would actually support.  Obviously it was passed in the heat of the moment of 9/11, but instead of passing things because they feel good, we should be reviewing them and making sure that they're the right thing to do.  No self-respecting true conservative can look back on that and say "Yes, that's right thing to do" after looking at the return on the investment of approximately $600 billion we've spent since it's inaugural year.

No Child Left Behind:  This utter joke of a program forces yet another federal imposition onto the states and local communities.  A true conservative would have rebelled against such an overbearing intrusion into the state/community responsibilities.  The federal government has absolutely no constitutional authority when it comes to education, yet forces local districts to follow their rules.  Interestingly, NCLB is long as the school district who opts out agrees to forego their federal funding, which we all know would never happen.  This vomitous mass of a program has "only" cost the tax payers $75 billion or so (depending upon what sources you believe) at the federal level.  Unfortunately, because of the requirements that NCLB imposes on the state & local authorities, it's cost them much more.  Additionally, the federal government didn't fully fund their own requirements.  So essentially, they said "Here's a new requirement that you have to meet in order to get federal funds, but here's 50% of the money that it's going to cost you to fulfill the requirements".
Now, I'm actually against federal funding of education of any sort.  I think this sort of thing should be block-granted to the states and the feds should stay the hell out of the entire thing.  But if the feds are going to force states to do something, they should damn well come up with the cash to back it up.

So, I think it's safe to say that GWB is absolutely no conservative.  Sure he had a few things that made him look the part:  Stem-cell research opposition, the war on terror (although I'd argue that Al Gore's sorry ass would have gone to war just as quickly as GWB did), and his frequent invoking of God's name in whatever speech he happens to be giving.  Additionally his support of gun-rights was strong and I give him credit for that.  However, John Dingell (D-MI) is an ardent gun-rights supporter, voted for the war on terror, and occasionally uses God's name in speeches, does that make him a conservative too?  I'd argue no friggin way, and I'd say he would too.

Mitt is absolutely no conservative.  His frequent moderation when it comes to gun control, abortion, states rights, and other hard-core "conservative" values would back that if anyone would have the intellectual honestly to do a little bit of research would know that as well.  But since most people are too lazy to do that, I'll do it for them:

Gun Control:  Romney has consistently been in favor of some levels of gun registration and gun control (something I oppose wholeheartedly).  While governor of Massachusetts he signed one of the most restrictive assault weapon bans in the country.  He also backs a 5-day waiting period on purchases of guns. 

Immigration:  Romney states he's not in favor of amnesty.  Yet he supports the "Z-Visa" which is essentially, amnesty.  It allows someone to stay in the country indefinitely.  They have to re-register for it every so often, but essentially, it's amnesty for those who have already entered illegally.  Ironically, not breaking the law is one of the requirements of the Z-Visa, but of course, they've already broken it if they're in our country, something that the liberals who support such idiocy are conveniently choosing to ignore.
Abortion:  In this case, Romney and I agree.  He personally thinks that it's wrong and does not support abortion, but does support a woman's right to choose.  During the 1994 race for the Senate, he discussed a case where his brother-in-law's sister died of complications after an illegal abortion which is why he supports keeping abortion legal and safe.  In my situation, I believe that it's a woman's choice and no governmental entity should make a law restricting that choice.  I also believe that it's a horribly immoral thing to do and that it's not just the mother's life who is affected here, but if a woman wants to live with killing her child on her conscience, who am I to stop her?

Gay Rights:  Mitt Romney actively campaigned for gays to be allowed to serve in the military "openly and honestly".  He also ok with the Boy Scouts being forced to allow gay people to serve as troop leaders.
So, I think it's fair to say that Romney is no Reagan...nor is he Pat Robertson, Rick Santorum, or any other far right wing politician who wants to control what you do in your bedroom.  And anyone who says otherwise has something they're trying to sell you.

Monday, September 24, 2012

SEIU kickbacks (or Michigan Proposition 4)

So, I first heard about this back when Jennifer "Blown Away" Granholm was our governor here in the great state of Michigan.  Essentially, if the state is assisting with payments for a home health aide, that aide must be a member of the SEIU and pay union dues, essentially adding about $32 million and growing every second into the coffer of the SEIU since September 2005(  This was a blatant kickback for the union from Governor Granholm as a payback for their support during the previous election. 

Since this happened, not only are the home health aides upset at being forced to join a union and pay dues, taxpayers who do not want their money confiscated in such a scheme are upset, and people who believe in the right to work are upset.  So upset, in fact, that they worked, from a grassroots level, to get this thievery overturned in the house and senate.  The unions saw that they were going to lose and bought themselves several good politicians, but it wasn't enough and the law was passed and signed by Governor Snyder.  You'd think our story would end here, but it doesn't.  The unions sued to keep their little scam going and lost.  Yet they're still getting the money because it's still in court.  The Attorney General issued a decision stating that this wasn't right, but still getting the money.  And now, the union is trying to pass a proposal that writes this whole scam into the Michigan constitution via Proposal 4.

What kills me is that the advertisements they're running all say that they're for "quality health care".  Riiiiight.  SEIU being for quality health care is like the UAW being for productive workers or the Teamsters being against organized crime.  So, essentially, you've taken the exact same people that were working as home health aides before, forced them to take money out of their pockets and give them to you, and you're telling me that without you forcing them to pay you what amounts to 'protection' money, suddenly we'd have bad healthcare?  What I don't get is that people seem to be buying into this garbage.  Even the BS organization behind the petition that got the proposal on the ballot in the first place is bullshit:  Citizens for Affordable Quality Home Care.  What utter crap.

What needs to happen is that the health care professionals who were unionized against their will, without their knowledge (until the first union dues deduction was removed from their check), need to stand together and present their side of the story.  But, unfortunately, because they don't make much money, no politician or special interest group is willing to stand up and buy them some air time or tell their story.  Maybe someone with some balls will stand up and help them out against the millions of dollars of SEIU purchased advertisement.

And maybe monkeys will fly outta my butt.

Monday, September 17, 2012

An IRS scam sent to me today

Ah, the scammers are back.  Here's what I got today in the mail.  Seriously....pathetic.  Anyone who actually clicks on this thing almost deserves a virus....

Internal Revenue Service United States Department
of the Treasury (IRS)

Your State Tax regular transaction (ID: 2726601816818), recently ordered for processing from your checking account was returned by your banking institution.

Not Accepted Tax transfer
Tax Transaction ID:
Reason of rejection
See details in the report below
Federal Tax Transaction Report
tax_report_2726601816818.doc (Microsoft Word Document)

Internal Revenue Service St. Augusta 29782 MI

The case against Romney

As I said a couple weeks ago, there is definitely a case to be made against Mitt Romney for president.  Generally speaking I tend to agree with some of what he does and says he would do, if elected president.  However, my issues with him are as follows:

1.  He supports the NDAA.  Horrible, horrible law which hopefully will be struck down by the courts so that we don't have to worry about being arrested for disagreeing with the government.  Yes, that's EXACTLY what the law says.  First amendment be damned, you don't need to frickin' free speech.  That's a problem, and I don't care whether we're "at war" or not.  That's part of why it is that freedom of speech is so important, to defend the speech that others may think is offensive.  Think about it, 50 years ago, someone speaking about black people living amongst whites, marrying whites, having babies with whites and it being socially acceptable would have been arrested in many areas.  Now, the very activity he would have been arrested for just talking about, is socially acceptable to actually perform.  Offensive today may be acceptable tomorrow.  Additionally, those who speak for the minority may have a good point that eventually will become accepted by the majority.  Ron Paul's ideas were first thought to be only acceptable to a small number of fringe candidates and their supporters.  Yet, he's had influence on the platform (including the Republican platform plank calling for an audit of the fed) as well as influence amongst Tea Party candidates from all over the country.  Freedom of speech allowed for that.

2.  He supports the war on drugs with absolutely no hesitation and has no intention to legalize marijuana.  C'mon.  The war on drugs has gone on long enough.  We've cost our country billions to incarcerate people whose biggest crime was having a bag of pot and not being smart enough(or being too stoned) to hide it in a good place.  We have more people in jail per capital than any other country in the world, including China, North Korea, & Cuba, the last bastions of communism.  I have no issue with keeping cocaine, heroin, meth, etc illegal.  But pot?  Seriously?  Is it still illegal because the liquor companies don't want the competition?  Is it still illegal because the companies that operate penitentiaries don't want to lose the business?  I have no idea, but it's a victimless crime.  If I grow pot and sell it to my 21 year old friend, I shouldn't be prosecuted.  Nor should any company, including the tobacco companies if they want to start a commercial operation to do the same. 
I'm not saying that pot is harmless, not by a long shot.  Most studies show that it has many of the same health affects as tobacco (cancer, COPD, heart problems, etc), but you may want to note that tobacco is legal, while pot is not.  Liquor causes deaths on the roads and in the hospitals every day, yet it's also legal and we have no intention of making it illegal. 

3.  Gun control - he's not a strong advocate of the second amendment.  Yes, he's given it lip service and has generally not done anything that would be construed as against it, but when you are in a position of power and do not explicitly state that 'yes, I am 100% for it', it concerns me.  In the past he has supported bans on 'assault-style' weapons, per the Brady Bill.  As you've read here before, I find that idiotic.  The Brady Bill definition of assault weapons include many that are merely cosmetically similar.  So, my Ruger 10-.22 with the right (or wrong, if you're Sarah Brady) clip, a different hand guard, and a specific type of sight, would be considered an 'assault weapon'.  Seriously?  idiots.

4.  Generally speaking I do like the fact that he's a billionaire.  Seriously.  He doesn't have to worry about being beholden to various industries or supporters for specific favors (although he still likely will, given the cost of the general election and the laws that forbid him from contributing too much to his own election).  I don't believe that what he did at Bain is evil incarnate and I believe that his experience with American Motors, the Olympics, Bain, and other jobs give him infinitely more experience that President Obama had when he was elected to heal the planet.  I like his pick of Ryan for VP, as he is as fiscal a conservative as you can be without being completely crucified (see Ron Paul) and run out of town in DC.  I also like that while the Democrats are talking charity and good works, Romney is actually putting his money where his mouth is, donating more to charity in one year than Biden and Obama have combined in ten.  The whole "out of touch" thing because he's a billionaire is a joke.  Seriously?  You truly think that these bungholes in Washington are actually IN-TOUCH with the common man?  If you do, you're an idiot and need to leave this page right now, as you're lowering the average IQ of my readership.

However, these points alone are sufficient to drive me to vote (again) for the Libertarian candidate, who is Gary Johnson.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Speaking truth to power....

I received an email yesterday that asked me if I had a "problem with authority".  It's taken me until today to perform sufficient self-examination to answer that question.


Yes, I have a problem with authority.

However, I don't think this is a bad thing.  I don't disrespect authority for the sake of disrespecting it.  I disrespect perceived authority.  Now, allow me to explain.  In my eyes, respect is earned.  Just because you are placed in a position of authority, does not necessarily afford you my complete respect.  I will respect the position you are in, and until you display to me otherwise, I will assume that you deserve said respect.  However, when you think that merely because you are IN the position that you DESERVE the respect, therein where you and I will have an issue and where I will have a 'problem' with your authority.

For example:
When I was in the Marine Corps, we had a platoon commander who was a gunnery sergeant (E7).  This guy was a complete shitbag.  I'm honestly not sure how he got that high in rank, but obviously it had something to do with chapstick and the "don't ask/don't tell policy".  He would show up to inspections with his uniform jacked up, he'd skip PT because he had a 'bad knee' (yet wouldn't bother going to sick call to get that knee fixed or examined), and generally was a bad Marine.  He and I had issues.  I was a squad leader and would regularly butt heads with him.  Not enough to get an article 15, but enough to where he knew that I knew that he was a LIFER (lazy ignorant f*&$*!r expecting retirement).  When he was first named to the platoon commander position, I was unfamiliar with him and afforded him the respect the position deserved.  Once I saw him fall out for an inspection wearing utilities that were obviously bleached, not sun-faded, I knew that this guy had spent about as much time in the field as my dress blues.  Then his actions, disrespecting the platoon, throwing guys under the bus to save his own ass, and volunteering us for duty just to make him look good, certified it for me that he would get the respect the position deserved, no more, no less.

Fast forward to today.  I respect the position of the President of the United States.  I respect the position of Senator or Representative.  However, many of the current occupants of these offices have done absolutely nothing to EARN that respect.  In fact, many of them have denigrated the very offices they hold and if true legal scholars would examine their actions have proven themselves to be a domestic enemy of the constitution (part of the oath that you take when you enlist in any service promises to defend the constitution against all enemies, foreign & domestic), which I am attempting to defend the constitution against.

When President Reagan bombed Libya after they bombed the United flight over Lockerbie, he earned respect.  When he promised to defeat the Soviets in the cold war and then took action to do so, he earned respect.
When President Bush promised that no hostile actions against relatively unarmed countries like Kuwait would go unchallenged and led us into Desert Shield/Storm, he earned respect.
When President Clinton worked to reform welfare and held fast to the no-fly zone in Iraq, he earned respect.
When President Bush (W) took the war to the Afghans after 9/11, creating the Bush Doctrine (that no terrorist action would go unpunished), he earned respect.
I cannot think of a single thing that President Obama has done to earn my respect.  I've tried.  Since yesterday afternoon, while I was composing this post, I've gone over the things he's proposed, even the things that failed, and yet, I cannot come up with a single thing that he's done to earn my respect.  Not one thing came to mind.  I'll acknowledge that I'm sure there's SOMETHING, he's done that would gain him respect, but thus far, I'm drawing a blank.

Now, each and every one of these presidents, including the several before them as well, starting with Johnson, also did one major thing that caused them to not only lose respect in my eyes, but also significantly weaken this country:  They've all spent OUR money like drunken sailors. 
- Johnson started with the "War on Poverty" (which has worked so well). 
- Nixon with, well, the War in Vietnam (continuing the Johnson policy, btw). 
- Ford...well, he wasn't in office long enough to do much damage,
- Carter created the Energy & Education departments, collosal wastes of money
- Reagan spent money blindly on Defense, albeit much of that was in response to Nixon/Ford/Carter making huge cuts, but there was zero accountability.  If he wanted to do it right, he would have made sure that every PENNY was spent making us stronger, rather than making defense contractors richer
- Bush kept spending and told us to "read his lips", meanwhile his actions said "read my hips (aka kiss my ass)" while he raised taxes.
-  Clinton spent money like a wild man, only saved by the fact that the economy was ridiculously robust (No thanks to him...the real Bill that should be thanked for that robust economy is Bill Gates, who Clinton went after as if he stole his tricycle), and let China steal our technology
- W- again, spent money like a drunken sailor, let China steal more of our technology, and got us involved in a war that had no real end-game and where politicians once-again were allowed to run the show rather than military leaders.  I have no problem with blasting Iraq, honestly, since I think we should have been allowed to do so 10 years earlier in Desert Storm, but the fact that the rules of engagment were ridiculous and politicians were allowed to whine, cry, and call our troops terrorists, murderers, etc., is unacceptable.
- Obama - Not only spent money like a drunken sailor, but made the other presidents before him look like pikers in this particular skill.  Additionally, has implemented a healthcare plan that will make everyone wish that he'd go back to the spending levels of his first term.

So, essentially what I'm trying to say is, I don't have a problem with authority per se.  I have a problem with idiots (and their supporters) who abuse authority and then tell me I'm supposed to respect them. 

Respect this......

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Libya & Egypt

So, the US Ambassador to Libya was killed and his body dragged through the streets of Libya.  This provoked a very raw and basic reaction in my gut that said "Kill the bastards, leave none alive".  Some of this was likely due to my Marine Corps indoctrination but I believe that some of it also came from being alive and impressionable during the Iran hostage crisis and seeing how our people were treated by those who would hold them hostage for 444 days.  I saw the truck bomb blow up in front of our embassy filled with Marines in Beiruit.  I saw terrorists of all forms attacking, blowing up, and killing our military personnel, embassy personnel, and citizens, and I saw our government bending over and grabbing their ankles and just continuing to take it. 

After some thought and discussion on Facebook with friends & relatives, I find that my basic reaction is still the same.  These are not humans.  These are animals.  You'll note, I have not said "these muslims are not human".  I have several friends that are muslim and I would fight to the death to defend them if we were together and they were to come to harm.  These people would call themselves muslim, but they are cut from the same cloth as those who would bomb abortion clinics, who would shoot OB/GYN's who perform abortions, and those who picket the funerals of slain military members because they dislike the positions of the US government.  These are not people.  They are not human.  They gave up their humanity when they decided that it was perfectly fine and justified to kill someone for their religious beliefs. 

I believe that abortion is wrong, but I don't shoot doctors and don't blow up abortion clinics.  The difference between me and Eric Rudolf is that I have preserved my humanity while he has forfeited his.  I believe that every child has a basic human right to be born, but that doesn't mean that I'm going to plant an improvised explosive device filled with nails and glass and place it in a public park full of people who don't hold an opinion either way.

I am offended when people insult Christianity, Judaism, and Catholicism, but I don't kill them or muster up a mob to pull them from their homes and drag them through the streets.  This is because I acknowledge their human rights to speak freely.  I wish they'd be more intelligent in their discussion of religion, but I won't behead them if they choose not to be educated.

While my friend David would forgive people for their transgressions, I cannot.  I cannot because I don't believe that they're human.  I'll forgive human beings for their mistakes, I will forgive people when they acknowledge that they likely acted in bad faith or improperly.  But these are not people they are animals. 

And we all know that an animal that attacks and kills innocent humans must be destroyed.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A picture is worth 1000 words....

All rights reserved to the owners of the photos.  These are not my photos, nor am I making any claim to them.

Friday, September 07, 2012

The Auto Bailout

Or how I learned to live with a billion dollar payoff to the UAW....

So, it seems that the bailout of General Motors and Chrysler is a talking point for the Democrats, where they praise President Obama for rescuing thousands of jobs and keeping our manufacturing base intact.  But let's really take a look and see if this is anywhere resembling the truth. 

First, let's look at the actual costs to the American taxpayer.
$80,000,000,000, or $80 Billion dollars was the cost of the loans and stock purchase, or $30k per worker (Per a Washington Post article).  Additionally, contrary to popular reporting by the lapdog media, the loans have NOT been repaid.  Ally Financial, GM's 'bank' (financing arm) still owes $12,000,000,000 and the 500,000,000 shares of stock that the American people own that was bought at a price of $46/share, and the current price is $22.45 (price at close of 9/6).  So, we're $12,000,000,000 underwater on that purchase.  I guess that the American people should be used to that, given the crash in our 401k's over the last four years, and since there's no possible way that GM stock will come close to that price any time soon, it should just be assumed that we'll be out yet another $12 billion.  GM earnings are disappointing and some 'experts' are actually predicting that GM will need yet another bailout soon if they don't turn things around.  Given that the unions have refused to concede anything as it relates to pensions, healthcare, or other expenses that the company is stuck with, turning things around seems like a long shot.
Chrysler has repaid the loans that they received, but it seems like they are merely an unfortunate asterisk to this entire story, ONLY costing the taxpayers $1.3 Billion after the loans were repaid and stock sold.
Who benefitted and who got screwed?
Well, most obviously the UAW benefitted.  They received not only a bailout which saved their members' jobs, but also were given (yes, GIVEN) a large portion of ownership of GM in preference over bond-holders, which legally is pretty questionable, given the hundreds of years of contract law precedence.  Bond-holders are supposed to be 'secured' creditors, who get paid first during a bankruptcy, but instead, the UAW received their payoff first, then the bondholders got pennies on the dollar.  About $23 Billion was paid to the UAW to fund their pension and healthcare costs for retirees.  Notice that $23 Billion is darn close to the $24 Billion that the American people stand to lose on the entire bailout?  Hmm....This was paid after GM & Chrysler made promises to the UAW that they couldn't keep and owed that money to the UAW trust fund for these expenses.  As part of the negotiations, the government made those payments for them.  So, technically, this wasn't so much an automaker bailout as much as it was a UAW bailout.  Meanwhile bondholders, which include your neighbors, the widows and orphans who benefit from investing in supposedly safe corporate bonds, got screwed.  They received $.20 on the dollar while the UAW received $.47/dollar owed.  And the difference here is that the bondholders are "secured" creditors, while the UAW was not.  This, from a legal perspective is very important, because secured creditors are SUPPOSED to be paid off first, which is why it is supposed to be a very safe investment.  This legal backtrack on the part of the American judicial system will likely affect the bond market for years to come as investors take note of the judicial systems' refusal to back secured creditors over a union.  So, good luck with your bond issuance in the future, unionized companies.

Other people to get screwed?  Dealers.  Especially dealerships which were owned by people who were openly Republicans.  President Obama's 'Auto Team' forced GM & Chrysler to "reorganize" their sales force, closing over 2000 dealerships, costing the country thousands of jobs.  Some of these dealerships had been dealers for 20-50 years, but that didn't matter.  Some of them closed completely, some went to selling other types of cars.  But per the NADA, this action cost the country over 100,000 jobs after it was said and done.  The auto industry saved 400,000 jobs, but then cost 100,000 jobs.  So given standard math, only 300,000 jobs were saved.  At a cost of 80,000,000,000, that seems to be $267k per job. 

For those of us who believe in the actual FREE market, this is inherently wrong.  But for those of you who believe that government should intervene in such situations, this doesn't seem to be quite worth the cost now, does it?  Especially when you consider that we're still going to lose $24 Billion on the deal and GM may end up needing yet another bailout.  And let's face it, it's not like this is an American industry any longer.  Walk through a GM dealership and look at the domestic production percentage of the vehicles in there.  How many are over 50% domestically produced?  Not many. 

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

"Are you better off now than you were four years ago?"

Over the next two months, you will hear this line uttered or read it thousands of times.  Seriously.  Thousands.  Unless you put your foot through your TV, shred your newspapers, don't answer your phone, and don't surf the Internet until after November.  Which I've considered.  For about a second.  Too much of a political junkie to do such a thing, but eh, it was a nice thought.

While I think the Republicans do have a winning slogan here, given the horrible state of the economy and the fact that most people are NOT better off than they were four years ago, I want to argue the basis of the statement. 

This statement assumes that government should be providing for your well-being and if President Obama isn't doing that, he should be replaced.  It assumes that you believe that without the government, you wouldn't be able to be better off, whether it's President Obama or President Romney assuming power in January.  Honestly, whether you are better off now than you were four years ago is truly based upon you.  The decisions you have made up to this point in your life and what choices you have made affect where you are in life today.  Did you decide to major in 'Old European Literature' rather than something marketable and instead have the study of literature as a hobby?  Did you finish college?  Did you join the military?  Did you decide NOT to join the military in hopes that the government would support you through college?  So very few things that involve whether we are "better off" are independent of the choices we make that I would argue that the government deserves neither the credit or the blame. 

You may be thinking now "But, the government can influence the success or failure of specific businesses or industries based upon their subsidies or support" to which I would respond that this is true to an extent.  However, given the international nature of most business, even the US government with it's full support cannot guarantee the success of an industry or a company.  Look at General Motors.  Even with a bailout of billions of dollars (much of which has not been paid back, despite media reports to the contrary), GM is barely squeaking by and has seen their earnings drop the last quarter.  Banks?  Too big to fail?  Not hardly.  Bank of America has cut their earnings for 2012 and 2013, with a stock price that is embarrasingly low at around $8/share. 

Yes, the government has influence on the economy, which in turn influences your well-being by creating better paying jobs and better opportunity.  However, that influence is based upon the ability to predict or measure what the government will do, what sort of regulations will come about, what sorts of tax changes will be made, and how it will affect the bottom line of companies.  Given that both Republicans and Democrats seem to be much more interested in feathering their own nests with the tax dollars of the working people and companies, I'm not sure that either of our current two major candidates would help to turn that around.  Republicans have spent too much of the taxpayer dollars on garbage programs like 'No Child Left Behind', 'Medicaid Part D', and 'The Patriot Act' to even pretend to be small government advocates.  And President Obama and his minions would love to raise taxes in order to pay for yet more government programs, thus ensuring that another generation of Democrats are born.

So, next time you hear "are you better off now than you were four years ago?", think about the choices you have made in your life and honestly consider the question...and who is responsible for that well-being. 

If you do that with true honesty, you will be better off now than you were four years ago.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The case against Obama

Anyone who actually reads this blog knows that I've been an opponent of Barack Obama all the way from back when he ran against Allen Keyes for Senator in Illinois.  His lack of any background other than a well-polished speech at the Democratic National Convention, as well as being an intellectual lightweight set him as a much lesser candidate than Keyes.  Unfortunately the people of Illinois disagreed and bought the slick marketing and packaged product that is Barack Obama.  And the rest, as they say, is history.

However, as he's served (I use that word lightly, given the number of times he's been absent of leadership) as president, he's given us an excellent insight into the way his mind works (or doesn't, as the case may be) and into his vision of Obama's America.  And I don't like it.

His utter arrogance and inability to accept when people would possibly disagree with him displays an immaturity and egotism that you rarely see in a true statesman.  Even the old drunk himself, Ted Kennedy, could have a decent discussion or relationship with someone who disagreed with him politically.  However, our president has chosen to instead isolate himself from the opposition by only attacking them and then letting his proxies negotiate any agreements between the R's & D's so that the D's get credit for bringing a bill to him.  His "you didn't build that" comment provides insight into the weight he puts upon the government's influence and contributions to the private sector.  Anyone who has ever actually built a business knows better, but of course, since he's never actually done that, much less met a payroll, paid employer taxes, or anything else that actually involves running a business, he wouldn't know this.  While I admit that much of the uproar surrounding the comment takes it out of context, in full context the comment is condescending, arrogant, and doesn't acknowledge the fact that if it wasn't for the small business people building those businesses themselves, the government wouldn't have any money for those asinine boondoggles that they love to spend OUR money on.

Speaking of boondoggles, let's talk about the healthcare plan:  In a ridiculous payback to the pharmaceutical & medical device industry, as well as the hospital organizations across the country, this healthcare plan benefits no one, except these corporations.  More people have ended up without insurance in the last two years since the plans has gradually come into effect and the price of insurance has increased rather than decreased.   So, how exactly was this plan supposed to "help" people?  And companies are being forced to provide birth control via their insurance when they did not previously, even when doing so violates their religious tenets, including the Catholic Church and Catholic organizations such as Ascension Health (which operates 60+ not-for-profit Catholic-affiliated hospitals in the US).  This was the origination of the whole whatshername is a slut comment by Rush Limbaugh.  I don't remember the woman's name, nor do I care enough to even Google her, but essentially she sat in front of Congress representing herself as a regular-ol' law student who can't afford birth control, since it costs over $3000 over the time she was in law school.  Later, we found out with just a little bit of research (which we have to do, since the media won't do their jobs), that she was an advocate for women's reproductive rights, abortion advocate, and was 29 or so.  Additionally, we found out that a birth control prescription at the local Walmart, Target, or other big-box pharmacy only costs $9/month, easily affordable by even the poorest college student.  Ironically, she was attending one of the most expensive law schools in America, Georgetown.  Funny that she's smart enough to get into that law school, pay for it, and yet still thinks that BC pills are $1,000 a year.  Rush shouldn't have called her a slut, he should have called her an idiot.

Since we're talking about idiots, let's talk foreign policy.  The Republicans make a big deal about President Obama bowing everywhere he goes and asking for forgiveness from leaders, or 'patience for flexibility' until after the election.  Honestly, I'm not worked up about that.  What I don't like is that while President George W. Bush put our military in harms way in two countries, it looks like President Obama is willing to use our military in Libya, in Uganda, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, Pakistan, and has a "kill list" he has admitted and almost bragged about.  Seriously?  A kill-list?  Not even Cowboy W had a kill-list that he bragged about.  Yet the media remains relatively silent about this.  Yet President Bush was crucified when he used the word 'evil-doers'...Ridiculous.  It seems that while Republicans believe in large-scale use of our military (see Iraq & Afghanistan), the Democrats would rather cause us death through a thousand cuts by putting a company of troops here, there, and everywhere (see Bill Clinton's military deployments throughout Africa & eastern Europe).  Honestly, as anyone who knows me will attest to, I'm perfectly fine with supporting our national interests through violence against our enemies.  However, what national interest do we have in Uganda, Libya, Somalia, Syria, or any of these other ridiculous places where we're expected to have limited engagement rules and improper support?  And speaking of ridiculous rule of engagement, anyone else wondering why it is that we do not unleash the dogs of war on the animals in Afghanistan, finish it up, and get out?  You'd think that if President Obama really wanted to get out of Afghanistan, he'd unchain the military and let them clean it up.  By clean it up I mean "kill anyone who threatens us".  Anyone.  I would follow the philosphy of one of my fellow Marines, Major General James Mattis when he said, when speaking with some warlords in Iraq "I come in peace. I didn’t bring artillery. But I’m pleading with you, with tears in my eyes: If you fuck with me, I’ll kill you all."  There is something to the old adage 'peace through superior firepower'.  Don't have our troops sitting on their asses, only able to engage if eighteen different steps are followed.  Let them shoot first and ask questions later.  Afghanistan would be cleared out and settled down in a matter of months.  Look at what happened after 'the surge' in Iraq:  violence against our troops decreased incredibly in the months following.  And that was even with silly RoE's.

Finally, tax policy.  President Obama believes that making the 'rich pay their fair share' will balance the budget and provide some much-needed fairness to the economic model.  While I agree that people like Mitt Romney, Bill Gates, Steven Spielberg, Warren Buffet, and Oprah Winfrey paying an average tax rate of 13% isn't fair to those of us who pay an average tax rate of 25-30%, increasing the rate of the rich isn't the way to fix it.  Flat tax/Fair tax is the way to fix it.  At the moment, only about 51% of the population actually pay federal income taxes.  Yes, everyone who works has taxes deducated from their check, but that doesn't mean you PAY taxes.  This is a detail that many have generally overlooked.  When you get all the money you had deducted during the year back after filing your return, you don't PAY taxes.  Everyone needs to pay their fair share.  Everyone.  That's the only way this country will EVER get back to the greatness we once experienced.

These are my major points against the re-election of President Obama.  I didn't bother mentioning his ridiculous promises of transparency that immediately were broken, or his promise to spurn lobbyists, then then almost immediately hiring several for his cabinet or advisor posts....or his complaints against "insiders" and then hiring one as his Treasury Secretary...or his obvious opposition to the second amendment, including his cynical and murderous 'Fast & Furious' plot by the ATF to send guns to Mexico, then have those guns used in crimes and accuse rogue dealers of crimes and push for more gun control....

This doesn't mean that I support Mitt Romney either.  I expect to have a post against Romney's election within the next week or so.  I don't believe in voting for the lesser of two evils.  When you do that, you just get evil. 

Saturday, April 28, 2012

What's good for the goose.....

So President Obama has decided to single out private citizens who donate to the Romney campaign and publicly attempt to shame them ("Works for a company that forecloses on homes", "supports big oil", etc).  So I figured turnabout was fair play.  Here's a short list of upstanding citizens who have donated to the Obama campaign:

Celta Kirkland - Alpharetta GA - $5000 - unemployed, but a little research found that she's an author for the Jamaican Observer.  And her Linked-in profile says she's from Jamaica.  Foreign national?  hmm

Scott Goldie - Canton, NY - $5000 - lawyer, ambulance chaser, personal injury lawyer who drives up the cost of doing business, insurance, and medical care for everyone in society.

Marcus Jensvold - Houston, TX - $5000 - owner, M.D. JENSVOLD & CO., INC, Insurance company providing support for Big Oil.

Allyson Laackman - Chicago, IL - $5000 - Chief of Staff for the First Lady.  But before that she worked for Arthur Anderson for 10 years.  You remember Arthur Anderson, right?  The creators of the Enron, WorldCom, and other scandals where widows and children lost their savings?  And after that, for French American Securities.  More people stealing the money of widows and children, right?

Susan E. O'Conner - Clinton, MT - $5000 - Relative of the owner of Saroc Inc, an oil company.  So, not only did she do nothing to earn her money (using the liberal logic), but the money is dirty because it's an oil company.

See?  This can be fun if you just make a game of it.

I think I may do some more research and see what other fun stuff I can find.

BTW, the sources for my information are and the Internet (where I search the person's name or employer's name and go to their company website).  There's no guarantee that whatever I've found out there is 100% accurate, but let's face it, there's no guarantee that the Obama campaign's lies are accurate either.  Of course, they have the IRS, FBI, and TSA on their side and are funding their informational searches with billions of tax payers dollars.  I'm doing it in my underwear as I wake up on a Saturday morning.