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.