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Thursday, December 29, 2011

My First Ever Predictions


I will make my first ever predictions because I don't like to look back, so I don't like the year in review, and since I'm getting along in years, resolutions don't mean that much to me because I'm pretty much "what you see is what you get." I'll probably suck at this, being it's my first time but I remember a blogger at the VA posting about 14 predictions and 13 turned out to be wrong, so the bar is set pretty low...:-)

1. Our VA forum will have a large turnover of posters, and they will set a different agenda.
2. The health care "individual mandate" will stand by a 5-4 Supreme Court decision.
3. The Supreme Court will approve the San Antonio Federal court redistricting plan.
4. Several states will lose their immigration enforcement laws.
5. Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin will get recalled.
6. Iran will be met with minimum force of the United States Navy and Air Force causing them to lose the game of chicken as they react to stronger sanctions because they are unwilling give up their desire to acquire a nuclear weapon.
7. Senator John Kerry will replace Hillary Clinton as secretary of state and Governor Deval Patrick of Massachusetts will nominate himself as senator, fulfilling John Kerry's seat.
8. Elizabeth Warren will beat Scott Brown in the Massachusetts Senate race and will become a powerful voice for the Democratic Party.
9...Mitt Romney will win the Iowa Caucus, New Hampshire primary and make a stronger showing than expected in South Carolina propelling him to the GOP nomination, and he will pick New Jersey's Governor Chris Christie to be his running mate.
10...Edith Ann will get her 100,000 hit, no later than early August of 2012...Outstanding!
11...A long-time blogger will get booted in late October.
12. Eagle Ford Shale will have to shut down due to EPA findings.
13. President Barack Obama will lose the popular vote but win the important electoral vote in becoming our nation's 45th president.
14. The GOP will retain the house by a thread and fall shy of taking the Senate by one.
15. The GOP establishment will regain control of its own party, but John Boehner will lose his speaker post to Eric Cantor. The Tea Party will gradually fade away.
16. Ron Paul will run as a third-party candidate and the GOP will blame him for their loss. Rand Paul's ambitions will be curtailed because of the actions of his father.
17. Our economy is already showing some signs of recovery and unemployment will drop to 7.5% by November of 2012.
18. Raising the debt ceiling will not be as difficult this time next year.
19. Both parties will accept most of the proposals of Bowels-Simpson and in turn Moody will restore our AAA credit rating.
20. The hostility will start to come down, consumer confidence will rise, and in late 2012, we will begin to see signs of progress.

Others: The Help will win best picture, Meryl Streep best actress for Iron Lady and Brad Pitt best actor, Money Ball…Dallas Cowboys will beat NY Giants for the East title win first playoff game but lose the second as Felix Jones goes out with injury…The Houston Texans will lose first playoff game if they stick with T.J. Yates.

This is just a list of my 20 predictions and is not by any means a prophecy, so feel free to disagree and add some of your own or ask how I came to my conclusion.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

We live in a BS world


After watching a movie called “Margin Call" with Kevin Spacey, reading some comments at the VA and watching political shows and reading today's wonderful article titled "Why we need better nonsensical talk “by Tom Purcell, I’m convinced that we live in a BS world. I don't see us improving our situation until we go back to calling “a spade a spade."

We are still at a stage where we have decided that “parenting" and ridding the teachers union are the answers to our education problem. That's BS, they may be the major components but real problem solving has to be a work around the perceived problems and not just continue to throw up our arms and quit. I think the answer is revising the outdated system we are using but this is just a small example; I won't dwell into the details at this time.

The movie “Margin Call" wasn't what I expected because the theme was more like the movie " 12 angry men" because it was about a Wall Street firm, its managers and employees, and it all took place at the firm's location. It was about Wall Street recruiting the brightest people and turning them into used car salesmen, selling worthless securities with a passion and using money to ease their conscience. Those of us who are in the market cheered them on but when we found out that their actions caused a financial meltdown, we wanted to crucify them. It went onto show that a Wall Street firm or a corporation does not have the soul or a conscience. After one of their analysts showed them a computer model analysis where their junk assets had run its course; they decided to pass the junk off to their competitors, creating a free fall liquidation of many firms. The firms paid their top employee's lucrative bonuses before liquidation. Then came the taxpayer lending them funds at 1% interest; they in turn charged 3% interest pocketing a 2 percent gain; yet, we applauded them for paying back their taxpayer loans. That's the BS society we live in; as long as they paid us back, we forgave them for the financial meltdown causing millions to be unemployed, mortgages going under water and a further mistrust of our Financial System. We still don't have regulations in place to prevent another financial crisis and not one CEO went to jail because in our BS society, what they did was legal.

I agree with Tom Purcell's assessment" We want to be lied to in America. Whereas the truth can be painful, costly and time -consuming, we're suckers for a skillfully told yarn, and it puts us at ease and helps us sleep better at night.” Do we honestly care what a policeman does to arrest a suspect at 3:00AM? Have we explored the difference between preventing voter fraud and voter suppression? Do we seriously expect to solve our racial problems without exploring the past? This past weekend, the words of my unrealistic niece could have been an example of the point Tom Purcell was trying to make. We were having a discussion about the unemployment rate and how difficult it was for those that became accustomed to making over $80,000 a year and then having to face a layoff. She said that they could work three jobs instead of staying at home collecting unemployment and being picky about their job offers. First, the laid-off people would have to face mortgage and vehicle payments larger than the wages they would get from those three jobs; that's if they were available. And that's just a start. The county city and local businesses would have to deal with $800,000 of revenue if a mere 10 people were laid off. The people making $80,000 bought products that people working at Burger King could never afford. That's the type of BS country we live in; simple answers for complex problems. You could make a full circle and we would get back to reason parents may not have time to help their children with their home work.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Recalling a Christmas past


After the family left our house Christmas Eve, my wife and I put on some oldie's music and started to reminisce about Christmas past. My wife finally realized what my mother went through because our guests didn't leave until 2:00 A.M. and my wife had to get up at 7:00 A.M. to start the turkey. Christmas Day, she kept repeating, “I’m going to take a long nap when everyone leaves." Our last guest left at 6:30 P.M., so much for planning. It's only once a year, and if we had to do it over, we would still complain but we would do it all in a heartbeat. There are a lot of families without their loved ones this year.

With the music of the Temptations in the background, we started reminiscing about our Christmas trip to El Paso. I remember asking my friends at work about the best route, but it started a mini war with one side favoring Victoria to Del Rio to Ft Stockton and straight through to El Paso and the other side said, " Victoria to San Antonio take Interstate 10 and 900 miles later you'll be in El Paso." We selected the latter, but that was the easy part. I'd check my tires (four different Brands and one was a retread) hoses, radiator, and changed the oil and my wife did the packing and bought the food and supplies for the journey. As we were approaching Thomaston, my wife asked if I had locked the back door and turned off the coffee pot, as if I remembered or was going back to check, I gave her the standard, “yes." I can't remember where we had our fill up but we remembered asking the children if they needed to go to the bathroom because we didn't know what was ahead, two of them did but our middle child didn't have to go until we were 30 miles up to the road, so she got their first outdoor experience; we didn't have that problem on the way back.

We were in pretty good shape until we got to Ft Stockton where some white stuff started falling from the sky onto the roadway. My wife started getting excited and started waking up the kids to tell them that it was snowing but then again, she wasn't driving. It wasn't so bad until we got several miles outside of Ft Stockton, and we noticed that an 18 wheeler in front of us was the only other vehicle headed toward El Paso. The 18 wheeler was driving way too slow for me, so I remember getting over in my left hand lane to pass him because I recall saying, "why was that amateur driver driving so slow." After all, I was in my thirties, had a good job, and knew it all. My wife reminded me that we would only two on the road, but I put on my left-turn signal in an attempt to pass the truck, but as I did our car started to swerve and almost did a 180°, so I instantly realized that we were going to follow the red lights of that 18 wheeler all the way to El Paso, if possible. The driver probably got a good laugh of seeing another rookie traveler driving in his first snow.

When we eventually got to about 15 miles from El Paso, my wife said," I can take it from here." Gee thanks, the snow had stopped, and she drove the freeway to her house as if she never left home. Along the way, she sounded like a tour guide as she was describing all the sites to our children. When we arrived at our destination, everyone asked the usual question of "how was your trip?" This was one time when the reply led to a story. I never thought that I would ever hear the end of hearing my wife tell the story of my adventure into the snow covered left lane. Then came all the experts assuring everyone that they would not have done that. It was then when I remembered why I was never so happy to see the sign that read "You are now leaving El Paso."

Life's cycle will catch up with all of us one day or another. I remember when all of us at the table would smile and acknowledge when my stepfather would always say “I hate to leave good company but I'm going to take a nap." My wife and I felt like taking a nap the other day, but we're still looking forward to next year's Christmas.You'll get to that time when memories are better than gifts because they live forever.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Too Much Government?

The All American Debate

Yesterday, I watched an informative debate between Paul Ryan, Barney Frank, George Will and Robert Reich. ABC News' "This Week with Christiane Amanpour" and the Miller Center at the University of Virginia are partnering for "The Great American Debates," a series of debates on the key issues of the 2012 presidential campaign. This is going to be a series of events, which will last six weeks. Yesterday's debate was about “Too Much Government" and the panel consisted of two liberals and two conservatives and none on the panel and could be considered a moderate. I think this type of programming is great, but we will have to see in how well it does. I apologize for sounding like a skeptic, but I don't think the American public wants to be informed. They just want to stay in their ideological corners.

Republican Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin led off the discussion by saying that conservatives want smaller government, less regulation, less taxation allowing entrepreneurs to succeed in contrast to the Democrats who want more government in our lives. Barney Frank, a Democrat from Massachusetts disputed the assertion. He said that we all want smaller government but what is too small or too large. This went on back and forth until President Clinton's former labor Secretary, Robert Reich, said that both parties want effective government, the size can be debated. If the government is too large, then corruption and incompetence will likely follow. If the government is too small, regulations will be ignored, and corruption and incidents will be widespread. Barney Frank brought out the old adage” conservatives want government out of the boardroom but into the bedroom" to which Paul Ryan answered" We just want to retain American values." Barney Frank is a brilliant, comical man with a short temper. He practically dominated the debate. He became a star in the Clinton impeachment hearings. Mr. Frank asked George Will why he was against decriminalizing marijuana. George Will said that he was still studying the consequences of decriminalization. Barney Frank replied “This issue has been out there for decades; you're 65 years old; what's taking you so long?"

The role of government is a favorite subject of mine because I saw the same conservatives' rail against health care, yet that's the first thing that we set up when we go overseas to occupy a country. The liberals who railed against President George W. Bush for his unconstitutional practices of circumventing our civil liberties are allowing this president to do the same when they allowed Congress to pass a law saying that the president of United States can declare a United States citizens an enemy combatant and sentence them to lifetime confinement without a trial. The leaders conveniently attached the amendment to the defense appropriation bill. What legislator would want to be in a political ad for being against funding for the troops? Senator Chris Coons of Delaware said that another amendment could be taken up later, extracting the words that allow the president so much power. We've all heard that before. It's like a temporary sales tax that never goes away. I'm all for increasing the safety of American citizens but not at the risk of taking away Americans civil liberties. For example, if I donated some funds to a nonprofit group which in turn funded a terrorist group; I would be in jeopardy of spending the rest of my life in Guantanamo Bay. Is that farfetched?

I think that we know what the free market will do if it goes unfettered, and it's going to take a decade or so to develop the trust in government it once had. I don't believe anyone thinks welfare is supposed to be a way of life but unfortunately for some, it will be. I don't want to wage war against the wealthy, but I do want them to step up and pay their fair share in proportion to their taxable income. In the words of Elizabeth Warren,(D-MA) "we are proud of the wealthy corporations, but they should also step up and pay a little more for the roads the taxpayer builds, repairs and the public education that the taxpayer provides their employees." Is at a liberal position or is it a position of fairness?

We have an enormous debt and deficit so it is obvious our government is too big, but now we have a debate on picking what goes and what remains. The counterarguments are usually opinions without sufficient data to back up their claims.

What's the solution? I don't really know, but I think I know a good starting place. I think that we need to take away all party labels at the local level. It doesn't matter if a Republican or Democrat sees to it that ditches and roads are maintained. In a city, this size the ideologues have already summed up their candidates ,as to whether they are conservative or liberal, but we don't have to contaminate the rest of the voting pool. It doesn't matter how one feels on abortion at the local level or that some think only conservative Republicans know how to take care the purse strings. That could be interpreted several ways, one being they would give up progress for a $1.25 cut in their property tax. Yes, we want prudent individuals but that comes from within ,not party ideology. Let’s leave partisan politics at the national level, because if we control it at the local and state level, it might become less polarized by the time they get to Washington.Come on now,if this political junkie (25 hours of political shows a week) thinks we are getting too political;it's time to do something....:-)

A little off topic but the lack of traffic at Vic Ad worries me because it's the place where I became interested in on- line journal discussions. A poster said many have turned to Facebook; I tend to agree but I'm not a member, so that’s just a guess. The people at VA say that this is a seasonal lull, perhaps, but I can't remember it lasting so long. There has only been seven comments since 7:00AM and it's now 2:45PM If this trend continues I believe the remaining old timers will not come back because there is no one to discuss a subject with....That leaves me with some options that I may not like because I don't know how lively the discussions can be on Facebook ,even thou my whole family loves Facebook and they have assured me that I won't be disappointed. Personal blogs are easier and because I don't have to take the extra step to make sure that my words are not misconstrued. I've heard that person information can go viral in a matter of seconds.I don't want that.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Post Office Model


I was listening to several great discussions which I have been accustomed to, every since MSNBC's Chris Hayes became a host of "Up with Chris." One of today's topics was about the problems of the United States Post office. As they were discussing this topic it became apparent to me that there was a life lesson in that subject.

I will continue to say that our country needs a reboot because we're not keeping up with the current trend. It's what happened to our post office. The post office was mandated in the constitution but until recently the taxpayers subsidized it. In 1982 it became a semi-independent federal agency, mandated to be revenue-neutral.It's the only business that does not cost the taxpayer but it's ruled by them. They haven't been taking taxpayer's money to operate the business and continued to show a profit until about 2006. There were four reasons for this: (a) the demand for postal mail started decreasing and continues that trend today(b) the post office has not shown any innovation to keep up with today's habits(c) they could not compete with their competitors in overnight packaging(d) congressional regulations. Even though the post office doesn't take taxpayer money it still needs congressional approval to raise postal rates or close failing post offices. The most damaging blow on the post office came from a government oversight committee created to protect the taxpayers and the postal employees. According to the report if one were to extract the pension benefits and health care costs the post office would have made a profit, but it's still on a course to fail. The government audits found that the post office did not have enough money set aside to pay for the rising cost of pensions and health care and rather than come up with a workable solution; they added those costs onto an agency that was already headed off the cliff. You take away that government mandate, and the post office would have had a manageable debt.

When the post office closings were posted on our forum for discussion; posters commented that they didn’t need Saturday mail, and if they closed down entirely, it would be alright with them. I think that's a problem we have; too many people have a “I’ve got mine" mindset with individualism being the goal. The post office delivers to our rural areas, and it's the cheapest way to deliver the elderly their drugs. It was suggested that the post office should entertain other ways to bring revenue because the demand for postal mail will continue to drop. Perhaps they could cash checks or collect payments for the utility companies. Their own proposal to lay off 120,000 people will add to our increasingly high unemployment, and will add to our welfare and unemployment compensation rolls. It's a tough problem to solve because if the post office were to increase rates it probably would quicken their demise. I've always thought that the price of a postage stamp was relatively cheap compared to the service. Someone said that postal mail will always be with us because some documents need a signature, but that's not necessarily so. About a month ago Adobe (creators of a PDF) sent me a free offer(3 uses) an application called " Echo Sign" whereby the person could sign a document, scan it to their email in PDF format and instantly the requester would have a legally signed document.

We're like the post office because it should be obvious that we can't solve today's problem with yesterday's solutions. The recent report that just came out should be an eye opener, because the report stated that we've never had people unemployed for so long and more people today are considered poorer than in any other time since the Great Depression. That has not fazed our lawmakers. That report in itself should be telling us that we shouldn't be entertaining tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy. We shouldn't be making knee-jerk decisions just because we have a weak economy. For example, it's been brought up that the Keystone XL pipeline should be pushed through because of the possible 20,000 jobs. The environmental concerns and the States' rights of Nebraska should not hinder this project. Have the proponents of this project ever considered that OPEC might saturate the market with cheap oil causing Keystone to lay off half of those employees? What would another environmental disaster do to future projects? We will continue to make bad decisions if we don't consider the view points of others. There's nothing in the rules that say we can't stop in the middle of the stream and change directions if things aren't going according to plan. We don't need finger pointing at each junction.

People across the nation want to replace the entire Congress and replace them with plumbers, mechanics, and shop keepers. We don't live in the 18th Century; we need to correct the system and then hold our representatives accountable. Since we think it's OK for a corporation to be treated like an individual or that Congress can legally use their office to get insider information and profit on it; then we are getting exactly what we ask for. For example, government mandates bankrupted the post office by making them fund future liabilities and the same thing would happen if the private sector had to fund future liabilities. All you have to do is look at the recent bankruptcies where companies asked the courts to get  them out of their unfunded pension liabilities. The private and public sector should have affordable pensions and health care but future liabilities should be properly funded and mandated. I not one that will say "the markets will always self correct" when I've seen mountains of evidence contrary to that theory. We are like children sometimes; we have to be nudged in the right direction. Texting while driving comes to mind; are the guilty going to quit on their own?Some libertarians say that is just another freedom that the government is taking away.  I say when you're freedom jeopardizes the safety of others, it's time to sit down and talk .

Some principles still stand, and they should like " nothing is really free, hard work is rewarded,there's no sure thing and everyone has an agenda." A lot of us were raised with a negative reinforcement approach; we continued that method with our off spring but that was wrong. I believe if  we really think about it,we would realize that we are living in a hybrid nation and we run into many problems when we try to make it something it’s not. Whenever we try to overreach we will always get push-back. For example I think most of us are against abortion but some try for 100% compliance ,then they get instant push-back. It’s the same way for environmental, economic, welfare or other controversial issues.

I bet a lot of you will go away saying " See,I told you government intervention is always the problem." That's not it at all;government has a role but in this case it was too late to apply their approach (although the right one) without considering the consequences of their actions.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The final GOP debate of the year


Fox News hosted the final GOP debate of this year; thank goodness. As expected last night's debate was more the same with a twist. The bottom tier candidates had their final chance before the Iowa Caucus, but I didn't see any of them hit Newt Gingrich with a knockout punch. I was surprised to hear Michelle Bachmann state with certainty that last week's Politifact agreed with her that Newt Gingrich took $1.6 million from Freddie Mac at the height of the housing crisis. Ms. Bachmann said, "Well, after the debates that we had last week, Politifact came out and said " everything I said was true." Well, she was mentioned in Politifact, but she received two " Pants on fire" one was for last night's comment and the other one was from last week's comment when she said that Mitt Romney installed socialized medicine in Massachusetts. I don't know why they do that, do they get caught up in a moment or is it intentional hoping no one will check? I think it's the latter because she used that line a couple of times. If she was trying to rattle Newt Gingrich, she did, but she lost even more credibility by lying. Michelle Bachmann did not learn the lesson from Christine O'Donnell, if you have to remind people that you're a legitimate candidate; you're really not.

Have we stooped that low in today's politics where we give points to Rick Perry for not stuttering and stammering or falling off the stage? What was that Tim Tebow comparison about? A pundit this morning said, "Mitt Romney's look of amazement said it all. He must've been thinking to himself saying," What's Perry babbling about now and what's he doing on this stage." You know our Governor Rick Perry never mentioned the Hezbollah and the jihad threat in South America. Was he keeping it a secret or is he exaggerating the tidbits he's hearing? Mr. Perry said he would have retrieved the spy drone in Iran, or he would have destroyed it but he didn't get into the details. Once an instrument is used to spy on another country it is seized, the likelihood of getting it back is impossible. How would you to negotiate that? I think the Obama Administration is in contact with China and Russia about trying to get them to talk Iran into releasing the drone. Anyway, it served as a talking point and a reason to call the president weak. Ask al Qaeda if the president is weak!

I was surprised Mitt Romney didn't attack Newt Gingrich; I guess his negative campaign ads in Iowa have been enough because Newt is dropping in the polls. Rick Santorum tried to hit Mitt Romney for not overturning a state Supreme Court ruling and allowing gay marriage in Massachusetts. I'm not going to pretend that I know all the details, but Mitt did say that the Massachusetts legislation at that time was controlled by the Democrats. I can’t imagine Mitt winning that argument.

Newt Gingrich survived last night because his accusers didn't come prepared with rock solid evidence. I was surprised to hear Newt say that Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSE) did some good things in front of a conservative crowd. That crowd would boo Fannie and Freddie but would applaud defense contractors. They feed from the same trough. Newt did say something alarming last night, he said he would advise the Congress to revise the 14th amendment to redefine personhood. The new definition would say that life begins at conception. Yeah, I see that passing.

Ron Paul got the usual browbeating from his fellow conservatives for his foreign policy views. Whether he's a non-interventionist or an isolationist is just a matter of distinction, but they mean the same because he doesn't want America to be involved in other nation’s squabbles; even if it's in our own self-interest. Ron Paul's Ayn Rand laissez-faire economic policies are to the right of his party (America for that matter) and his foreign policy is to the left of his chosen party. He's a libertarian running as a Republican. I agreed with him when he took on Michelle Bachmann because she subscribes to the attack now and sort the facts out later. I'm sure Ron Paul upset the conservatives when he said" some of the Supreme Court judges are good, and some are bad." The answer for that Republican crowd should have been "I love  Scalia, Thomas, Roberts and Alito." That's the reason he won't win the Republican nomination. Even though he is consistent, he keeps reminding them how different he is.

I wasn't surprised but political newcomers got a good look at selfishness and greed within the Republican Party. Several of the candidates would like nine conservative judges, but they don't like activist judges. Can someone explain the difference? I call them dictatorial judges unless someone thinks that only conservatives reside in our nation. I wouldn't want nine liberal judges because that's not representative. Liberals don’t have all the answers, and neither do conservatives. Michelle Bachmann threatens to eliminate the whole 9th district but one of the commentators reminded her that would set off a chain of events for the liberals to eliminate a conservative district when they got the chance. There is that sense of nobility as if conservatives are the rightful heirs to the throne; locally, statewide, and nationally.

Jon Huntsman said something last night that the amateur economist should hear. When asked how he would approach China about manipulating their currency he said," China is a variety of things; it's about Burma; it's about their support in dealing with Iran; it's about hacking; it's about human rights and not just about adding a tariff where they would respond with one of their own. It's a complicated 40 year relationship." The conservatives don't like his talk of breaking up the big banks because it conflicts with their “repealing Dodd-Frank."

Finally there is Rick Santorum, who’s using Iowa  as his home base to run on mostly social issues, protecting Israel and taking a military stand against Iran. Those views have gotten him 2% in the polls, and he will exit in another month and then will endorse Newt Gingrich.He’s  hoping to serve in some capacity in a Gingrich administration which will never materialize.

That's how I saw it; did anyone see it differently?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Are we getting smarter or dumber?


Every year around the holidays we sit around the kitchen table and compare yesteryear to today. My daughter, who's an elementary schoolteacher, doesn't think the children of today are as smart as those of her era. I think that she's basing her opinion on what she sees and not on a scientific study. She might just be seeing something where the fault lies with the curriculum and not the students themselves. Several years ago, I showed my daughter an article that showed the lesson plans of a one-room school where all grades were taught at the same time. The year was in the late 1800s where the students were routinely taught algebra and calculus. We both looked that the problems and admitted that we probably couldn't pass the tests they did.

College dropouts like Mark Zuckerberg, Michael Dell, Steve Jobs, and Bob Gates will continue to amaze me, and I will always wonder how much further they might have gone if they completed their education. There is a legitimate argument that it a decree does not always equate to intelligence. I do believe good study habits, intelligence, and work ethics are in a way inherited. The four people I mentioned did not grow up in poverty or to a family that didn't believe in education.

I happen to think I'm smarter today than I was years ago because I'm more inquisitive. I'm not a genius, but I’m more willing to self educate myself than I was several years ago. I used to study for the test, and then I would forget about the subject until a needed it again. I took that same mindset to the workplace and became complacent. It wasn't until we started to computerize everything when I decided I needed to change if I was going keep my job. My fellow old timers were fighting the new system tooth and nail, but I saw the younger workers taking to it and loving it. I saw where computers could make things easier for me and my work mates. I decided to study the system and got to where I could work with the programmers to make the computers work for our specific needs since they were  originally set up to monitor basic operations. Was that a form of intelligence or a lazy person wanting to make things easier?

I have seen teenagers’ text message at 100 miles an hour and believe me that takes brainpower. I'm guessing you could put that same person at McDonald's, and they would have trouble giving you correct change. I've seen people my age who knew practically everything about their job, but the outside world was a puzzle to them. I've also seen where prisoners have created an elaborate scheme to code their messages and have created a business model that rival our Fortune 500. It that a quest for survival or a form of intelligence?I've always thought that intelligence was based on how quickly a person could grasp what was taught to them. I changed my mind when I started learning how some intelligent tests were based on familiarity with a subject rather than the ability to grasp. I remember reading about some employment and advancement  tests that were unfair to some minorities because they were unfamiliar with the environment that the questions were based on.

I've read stories where the military had to rewrite their manuals (dumb it down) because the new recruits were having a hard time learning how to use the sophisticated weaponry. Is that the fault of the recruits or our education system?

This morning I heard that the reason for our lack of intelligence today is that our children are being analyzed as being hyperactive rather than being diagnosed as being a normal boy who occasionally goes overboard The boy is then given Ritalin, which is then replaced with another drug as he progresses through his teen-age years. The author also said that the strong male role model is not like it once was. I don't agree or disagree with that synopsis because I can't relate to it. Fortunately, my children were not under medication, but we would not have looked for subnormal behavior patterns because we didn't know what to look for. In my day the norm was, "if was good enough for me then you'll get the same type of parenting." It's funny how being grandparents change our mind when it comes to our grandchildren.

I won't watch "Are you smarter than a fifth grader" because I don't want to know.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The 2012 election is about the role of government


The other night my wife asked me about what all the political commotion was about, so I thought about it for a minute, then I said “it’s all about the role of government." There's one side that wants smaller government, no matter what the circumstances. The other side thinks that government has a role to play. I went on to explain what certain buzzwords meant such as crony capitalism, government intervention, socialism, capitalism, and how they relate to the role of government in our lives.

My wife is not political at all but even an uninterested party knows about the unrest in our country. Her conservative friends are political but she tells me that she just nods and smiles and waits for the proper time to change the subject. I told her that’s a good way to keep good friends but it won't not help her in the upcoming election. I went on to tell her that the next president will probably appoint two replacement Supreme Court judges because we have a couple of judges who are getting along in age and are having health issues. I've told her that Roe vs. Wade will be in serious jeopardy if a couple of conservative judges are appointed.

The role of government whether it be the local, state, or federal is being taken to task and if one supports a position contrary to their belief, they're called a socialist. The definition of socialism is an "economic system based on state ownership of capital." We don't have that in this country unless you want to say Social Security, Medicare, and VA Care are all forms of socialism. I don't think that's where the country is; that's a view taken by extreme right wing conservatives/libertarians.
I see conservative/ libertarian outburst every day when our city gets involved in projects that they think should be left exclusively to the private sector. On one hand, I think that if the projects are kept at arms- link between the city and investors; then its okay. They should also be transparent, legal, and aboveboard. I have yet to see evidence of any wrongdoing in the sale of the pump house. From what I've read it was a win- win for both parties. Sure, it invites suspicion and those deals should be limited if possible. For instance, if no other interested buyer comes forward what’s the city supposed to do? I've seen the pencil pushers make their case using only one side of the ledger. The private sector and the government will not always make the right decision but people hold the government more accountable because they think their mistakes will always raise taxes. They think because they are taxpayers, they have a controlling interest in what the government can do. Technically that's correct but realistically the decisions are left up to the elected officials. Then there are those where the city can do no right, they will complain about construction in front of their business establishment, excessive spending, crony capitalism, and everything else under the sun. I think some are City Council wannabes but they know they can't get elected, so they gripe excessively. It's a good thing that those positions are not permanent but it doesn't help matters if only 17% of the registered voters show up to vote.

I don't keep up with state or local government affairs very much but I do keep up with the federal government. This year we will get a choice; if you want to continue cutting taxes for the wealthy, cutting spending without investing, and believe propping up the corporations will lead us to prosperity then the Republican Party will do that for you. If you want to leave massive cuts until after we start recovering and concentrate on more on innovation, infrastructure repair, and protecting the entitlements but realizing they need reform, then the democrats are your choice.

That's how I see the role of government in this year's election.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Just another Saturday rant


I usually adapt to change, unless it's my recliner, which, by the way sat in the same place for 25 years. Our new VA forum is pretty simple to navigate and easy on the eyes but I got accustomed to the blogs on my left side, recent comments on my right side, and a click at the bottom to get all the comments. It may be a fluke or a figment of my imagination, but I don't think we have that many people posting since the change.

I'd like to take this opportunity to get things off my mind because keeping it bottled up will not help my blood pressure. I have a different opinion than most folks have on the safety net, single payer Universal Health Care, race relations, student loans, green energy, the environment and the separation of church and state. I don't expect to ever engage in a worthwhile discussion because; both parties have to know how their opponents came to their conclusions. For example, I know why people don't like the government to provide Health Care for all, and it's not because they're not compassionate. We're taught all our lives to be self-sufficient and, that it's not fair to reward complacency. I agree wholeheartedly, but these are not normal times. The cost of health insurance has been going up for decades and there are many factors such as gouging by the insurance companies, expensive procedures, poor health choices, and fraud and abuse. We tend to find one scapegoat, and that's where the problem lies. My answer is "Medicare for all" but if the opposition has a better plan, then lay all the cards on the table for a thorough investigation. The opposition will tell me that it's socialism without hearing my side of the story. I think it would alleviate the burdens on our companies to provide health care, and it would be cheaper in the long run because of preventive care features.

I continue to see misconceptions about race. One poster simply stated that " we are not black and white; we are all Americans" well, That line always gets a standing ovation but the next day, we fall back into the same trap because, as Atty. General Holder said, " We are a nation of cowards" on matters of race, with most Americans avoiding candid discussions of racial issues." The continued uses of racial arguments are treated like they are in football; it's usually the last guy who throws a punch who gets penalized for using it. All we ever have is closed mind discussions. If we're going to talk about affirmative action, it's only proper to start with the reason we implemented it in the first place and work through it until we get where we are today. Sometimes you have to use trickery to get your point across. A poster (game05) cleverly used a sickle and hammer avatar to make his point the other day, proving that the confederate flag can be a divisive issue. It worked because a couple of posters called it ironic because they didn't know that they had been had. Finally is the Walter Williams (black conservative journalist) issue. A lot of social conservatives love Walter Williams because he tells them that it's OK to criticize a black man and not be racial, and that's true but Mr. Williams has made a lot of money by only criticizing minorities and not giving more context in his examples. He is a master in half-truths. In today's Advocate, Walter Williams must have used over a 1000 words to explain why it's not right to make people purchase insurance. I wonder if he thought the same thing when the conservative Heritage Foundation came up with the concept. It's always been a conservative view that everyone should pay something. I have many black friends, but I don't know any of them that like Walter Williams because they see him for what he is.

I've met many Christian fundamentalist like Gary White, who speaks the “holier than thou" not knowing that they are turning off the very people they are trying to reach. They take it to the political arena where they turn off even more people. Gary is saying that President Obama is trying to spread a homosexual agenda but all he's doing is sending out his surrogates to say that they will not tolerate genocide. Gary needs to read about the Ugandan mission to execute all homosexuals.

I am a proud environmentalist, but that doesn't mean I want to tie myself around the tree to prevent the building of a mall or reject every fossil-fuel project. I just want all environmental concerns to be listened to and environmental safeguards implemented. Conservatives are concerned about leaving our grandchildren all our debt, but they should be equally concerned about leaving them a clean planet to live on. At least, we can temporarily print money to lessen the effects, but we can't do that with greenhouse emissions. I have yet to hear and what exact regulations are holding up production. Demonizing the EPA without specific charges is unacceptable.

Well, I guess it's time to end my Saturday rant and go read a book or watch a little television and get ready for tonight's ABC GOP debate.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Do we have to settle for ambiguity?


Is there really a double standard or is that an excuse for an unfavorable ruling? I hear people crying foul because it's a double standard a lot these days, it's right up there with hypocrite and half- truths. In some cases they are right because of the time span between the two incidents; other times some people will use a ruling from 20 years ago to try and prove a double standard. It's the same way with the word hypocrite and half-truths or lies of omission.

Several years ago, our boss decided he was going crack down on sleeping in the workplace but he didn't want to be accused of favoritism by looking the other way when key employees violated what he was now going to enforce. He knew he would be called a hypocrite because he used to sleep on the job, it may have been an infrequent 15 minute cat nap but he knew he would be called a hypocrite. He called a few of us old timers in to get our input but he knew we would tell the others and if he could convince us he was doing the right thing; it would soften the blow when he presented it to the rest the group. We suggested that he should insert the words “from this day forward" to mean that we have all been guilty in the past but it will no longer be tolerated. He answered the 'hypocrite" label by saying he was now in a position of authority and in charge of everyone's safety. He ended by saying that violations would be treated on a case -by- case basis but they would be all treated as “sleeping on the job." All we ever wanted was “fairness"- for example would you punish a brand new father the same way you would a frequent violator?

I'm sure we've all seen posters get a post deleted and then immediately cry “double standard" but it may have been a different moderator, double standard, or that some people are on the short lease. A lot of us have been called a hypocrite from time to time because we're not allowed to evolve in their black and white world. I admit, I've changed my mind on several issues. I've been accused of writing half truths because I don't always include the views of the opposition but am I really required to do that, if I think they are irrelevant? They're more than welcome to include their view in a rebuttal. I don't think I can ever be accused of “lies of omission" because I assume my detractors know that I'm not trying to deceive.

One of my pet peeves is when a person tells a commentator an obvious lie or exaggeration and then calmly admits the lie (only after being called on it) and continues spouting more lies and exaggerations. We are no longer held accountable for not telling the truth; it's becoming an accepted practice. The media will use half-truths and lies of omission to keep from calling a person a liar. Where are the Edward R. Murrow, Walter Cronkites and Tim Russerts?

I don't know why I'm such a stickler for the truth; it might be because my stepfather would punish me  more for the lie than for what I actually did. That's the way I raised my children; I always told them that if I'm going to be in your corner, I need to know that you're telling the truth. They remember me saying" do you really think I'm that stupid." I won't be satisfied until O.J. Simpson admits he killed Nicole and Ron Goldman. I know he killed them but he never admitted it and he was acquitted. I would like to know if we needed a tax abatement to land the Caterpillar contract. I would like to know the actual reasons we invaded Iraq. I would like to know if there really was a crashed alien spacecraft at Roswell, NM. I know I will be stuck with ambiguity because that's just the way it is.

Monday, December 5, 2011

We Need a Forum Fact Checker


Our forum is taking on the look of a shoot from the hip, anything goes, forum bent on revenge. There are some that hate the  "delete" button the moderator uses to take control of the forum.They would love a free -for-all format.  They can't understand that our reporters have feelings, and they are now fighting back instead of being used as a pin cushion. As I said before, the Advocate can exclusively feature conservative journalists, and I wouldn't whine at all and because I have other sources. A good example of that was performed by a poster I don’t even like, rollingstone, when he pointed out line by line, section by section of the United States Constitution of how secession, slavery, and Nullification were all unconstitutional but Gafftop has yet to respond. Few posters ever own up to their mistakes.

Think about it,it's only the so-called conservatives complaining about the content of the newspaper but that's because they are used to filtered media. I don't think the Advocate has a left or right wing bias and I think they go the extra mile to stay that way. That's just my opinion. 

In a post to BigJ, I stated, “I don't think Gheni is being picked on, but her topics are... Gheni will be a good reporter one day, but the Victoria forum readers are generally in their fifties or older. It's that crowd that she is not appealing to and ones that don't like in -your- face controversial subjects. That might work in Houston, but it won't work with demographics of Victoria" but then I read GetSmart's opinion blog, and I can see where a lot of people need some lessons on race relations. They are seriously lacking basic understanding. You cannot gripe about perceived inequalities of today without knowing how we got there in the first place. You just can't put Bull Connor and his fire hoses and the discriminatory poll tax in a well-hidden corner and expect to gripe about affirmative action. If it wasn't for the groups made up of minorities, would we be talking about voter's rights or the voter ID card? I was in my late teens and we still had separate drinking fountains and segregated schools. Can you believe that we are in the 21st Century, and a church is voting on whether to accept interracial couples? The Elks Club et al, nepotism, and other means were accepted practices of advancement under the guise of networking. The ignorant call, some devoted months to honor the achievements of Hispanics and blacks racism saying if there was a dedicated month for Caucasians minorities would squawk. That's where the problem lies, in the first place and that just an opinion without basis and the minorities grew up without any knowledge of their ancestor's accomplishments because the emphasis wasn't there. I don’t think Hispanics or blacks called for the special months and I don’t think they would mind if they were eliminated.I believe  it was woofwoof  who posted complaining about the black month and wanting equal time for the white race. That would take a lot of months, since they are about 125 ethnicities in the white race. When I  posted an article featuring a Czech Month, he never responded. I believed if more people apologized when they were wrong or admitted their error, it would go a long way in self-policing. The United States inaugurated the first black president on January 20, 2009, and we don't have currently have a black senator. GetSmart and his small crowd would lose their “victim" case in front of an impartial jury who had access to the facts.

Right now, we are rehashing a war that was ended 146 years ago. I happen to think that in the talks between the southern states and their counterparts, the topic of slavery was very much at the forefront. Whether the majority of the southern soldiers owned any slaves or had an opinion on it doesn't matter to me. I am only interested in the written documents.

The confederate flag was not only used by the KKK because It's currently being used by other racist groups The racist groups are hijacking that flag, but they know they are inflaming their targets. I saw where David Duke was arrested and deported from Germany the other day, in the backdrop was a confederate flag. The same people who denounce American Muslims for not being more vocal about radical Islamic terrorist are not doing the same when it comes to American terrorist hijacking the confederate flag.It's all about perception.

In the six years, that I have been part of the online forum, I have stayed away from racial issues because the issue is too sensitive, and my words may be taking out a context. Like several posters, I have an extensive comment history report and that in that report; I would challenge any one to find anything that could be defined as being racist. I'm rethinking my former stance because I can't just sit idly by while ignorant people are trying to rewrite history to promote their agenda. There's not a lot I can do. I can only offer  my opinion but when combined with others; we can take the sting out of the self-serving hypotheticals that are substituting for fact.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Our forum is showing some signs of life


The VA forum is starting to show some signs of life. It's a good sign for political junkies like me but as always, a lot of people don't like controversy. I wish there was a way to combine everyone's interest, sort of of like a cafeteria forum. Every time, I want to write a nonpolitical blog, someone will post a political blog, and I feel compelled to retaliate. I know that sounds like a bad excuse but our forum was political when I joined, and it will still be political when I leave. I do like a change of pace now and then instead of the recycled themes. I think politics will be at the forefront for another 366 days.

Did I miss the boat and land in the Twilight Zone? I've could've sworn Christians used to preach tolerance, loving our fellow man, taking care of the poor, and being good stewards of the earth. It seems like in the last few years Christians have become political and less caring about getting along or promoting good works. I'm sure it's still being done but some on our forum are causing some posters to challenge their" holier than thou" attitude. I had to stop Gary White before I posted something that I would be sorry for. He was taking me down to a road where he would try to make me admit that Bill Clinton was not a moral man. I've had that discussion with others, and as I've told them, “I don't need you to define morals for me." I wouldn't be wrong for thinking that leaving clean air and clean water for the next generation is moral or morals could be defined as seeing to it that as many people as possible have health care insurance." It's not only about what Gary thinks is moral. I think it's immoral for Gary to provoke others into arguments. He could start with factual posts. It’s impossible to have a dialogue with a fundamentalist because they are in a zone it cannot be penetrated.

I just had to listen to my kids and do most of my shopping online, but they didn't tell me about all the emails I would be getting from Amazon and ITunes etc. I know it's just a little program script but it's still creepy when I log into Amazon and get a message “you might be interested in this since you just bought that." There's always a catch and nothing is free but air and water but of not so sure of the latter. It wouldn't be so bad if they just went to my computer, but I have to delete them on my iPad and iPhone. The alarm on my phone is constantly going off telling me I have another email. Fortunately, I can put that in the off position. I know people there are without jobs, and I'm complaining about a simple nuisance.

Does anyone know how the forum will change (other than what has been displayed) after the first of the year? I hope it's not too difficult because I'm pretty comfortable the way he is but it was a pretty impressive background. Every time, I decide to go to an Advocate meeting. Something gets in the way but most of time I just forget. That's a burden of retirement sometimes; you just get comfortable with a routine. I guess I could set up alarms on my gadgets to remind me. I would like to add some new features to my personal blog, but I haven't seen any out there.

I'm going to try and leave this blog open for a day or two and just update it because it's hard keeping up with two blogs.