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Friday, June 29, 2012

A quick analysis of this week's thoughts

I posted my analysis of yesterday's Supreme Court decision and we can discuss that if you want but I want to first describe my experience with that. The posting of my blog was the same and but I soon found out that I couldn't comment because I don't have a Facebook account. Not being able to respond to any criticism or the rare compliment is going to make it pretty awkward. In the old format I pretty much knew who to respond to and the ones to ignore After reading the comments by posters unknown to me; I really didn't know what to expect. Evidently the posters feel the same way about me because I've only received one comment and it was from Jessica. I saw a lot of posts that would have been deleted pretty quickly under the old format. In the old format, I pretty much knew who to respond to and the ones to ignore. The first two days prove that using real names doesn't necessarily promote civility. I'm going to have to find a new way of searching because I used to just check out the avatars and the poster's name and that made it easy scrolling through the latest comments. I believe we can only view the latest 50 comments, then they disappear. That's no good.Hopefully the newness and the kinks in the system, will work itself through, but I'm not liking what I'm seeing right now.

I've seen and heard a lot of comments and about free health care but that's been pretty much the theme when it comes to anything government. For some, buying a postage stamp is considered socialism. It's as if we're having a civil war between the private and the public sector. I wonder if the same people dislike their next door neighbor because they are a teacher, firemen, police officer, or an IRS agent. I was having a good discussion with a poster at ViCad the other day and he said that me we didn't used to have public assistance in the old days,so families and friends took up the slack. I showed him where we've had public assistance since colonial days but I'm sure it didn't change his mind but I'll never know because he didn't respond.A commenter was asking if paying the fine was cheaper than paying for health care. I bet he's probably one of those complaining of people getting free health care.  I can certainly understand the uneasiness of too much government but it seems to me those distinctions are too extreme. I've been saying for quite some time, that this year's election will be about the role of government. I've been asked several times for my definition of how much is too much government.It's supposed to be their idea of making me admit that I want more government. My reply is “that’s a loaded question with an anticipated  numeric answer." The simple answer is whatever takes to make it effective.

 We still have the silliness,the idea of holding the Atty. General of the United States in contempt prompted the Congressional Black Caucus to bringing charges of charge as a reprimand against  Rep. Darrell Issa.  It was defeated 259 to 161, with 24 Democrats siding with all Republicans but it was put in the record.

It's not all bad because Congress just sent President Barack Obama a comprehensive extension of highway and infrastructure projects, along with a one-year extension of low student loan rates that were set to double. I may be wrong but this what the country wants. I don't think constituents mind the partisan battles as long as at a given time both sides will compromise and send the president a needed jobs bill.

Once again you know my "no real rules" policy; if you don't like subject change it to something you want to discuss..... It's open thread Friday.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Is it the End of Obama Care?

As early as tomorrow the most conservative court since the 1930s will rule on the constitutionality of the “individual mandate" provision of the Affordable Care Act or to declare the whole Act unconstitutional. I think we can all agree that it will have an enormous economic and political impact.

I cannot sugarcoat the devastating blow it will be to the liberal agenda if ACT gets struck down. It will fall more on them than it will on the Democratic Party. That's unfortunate because liberals only make up 40% of the party and they didn't get the benefit of the pubic option or the single payer, In fact the latter two options did not have a representative at the table. The Blue Dog Democrats (conservative Democrats) did not support the Affordable Care Act and consequently lost their reelection bid; leaving the liberals the only group to blame. Why is this important? It gets down to the basics; the liberal’s reason for expanding heath care is their desire for equality and social justice. The best sign I saw during the Tea Party protest to health care, read “Spread my Work ethic..Not my wealth." Although the “individual mandate" was originally a conservative idea because it's at the core of " individual responsibility" of their beliefs but their civil libertarian side hates the government telling the citizen that they have to purchase anything. I saw a AP poll where 77% wants Congress to redo the legislation and 19% want doesn't want Congress to do a thing. It’s like any huge piece of legislation; it takes a bipartisan effort for it to be successful but the desire is not the same for both parties.

If any part of the Affordable Health care Act gets struck down, the Mitt Romney team will say that the reason for the high employment is that the president spent too much time on health care but that's not true. The Democrats passed the stimulus thinking that it would bring down unemployment but did not anticipate that governors would use that money to balance their budgets, lay off public employees, and that they did not want to start projects which couldn’t be completed without federal funds. The administration over sold the "shovel ready projects." I think the biggest mistake the administration made was thinking that the Republicans would work with them. President Obama was against the mandate during the campaign but was persuaded because he was told that the republicans would support it. The other mistake was not using the "public option" as a bargaining chip and making the deal with Big Pharma instead of having the option to buy drugs in bulk as the VA does. I have to give it to the GOP they won the message war by calling it "government run government health care" and it never was. The political rhetoric will drown out the fact that 30 million people will lose their health insurance if any part is struck down.

Several pundits still say that the legislation is too complicated and the four years it would take for the whole law to be in force was way too long. The reason for the four years was to not go the same path as Romney care. It takes at least four years to get the funding and the clinical and delivery system in place. The administration sent $5 billion to divide between all 50 states to set up temporary risk pools. This was done 90 days after the law was passed. Massachusetts made the mistake of immediately sending out 550,000 insurance cards but did not have the primary care capacity in place; consequently the ERS were always full defeating the cost savings of Romney care since ER care is a lot more expensive.

If the Supreme Court decision is another 5-4, some will see it as upholding the constitution while others will see as partisan politics. President Obama could use the decision to galvanize his base saying " we 've got work to do because the GOP will not take up the mantle." Mitt Romney does not have that option because 5 of the justices are conservative if the unlikely happens.

 What do you think; am I partly right,way off base or somewhere in the middle?

Friday, June 22, 2012

Not the America I know

I was watching television this morning, but I found myself reading the news off my iPad and paying more attention to that than I was  to watching "Morning Joe." In frustration, I turned off my iPad and television and took my morning shower because I needed a reboot from all the negativity, and the know- it- all. It was 7:00 A.M., and I wondered if the old Guerrera's was still in business.

It didn't take me long to wake up, because as soon as I opened the front door, a swarm of yellow jackets were hovering over my head. That used to be a common occurrence in my youth, but  its been years since I've seen them,so I kept going to my truck ,knowing that I could take care that problem when I got back. It'll be a 3-minute job (2 1/2 minutes looking for the can of Raid wasp spray) to freeze them from 3 feet away.

When I got to the corner of Teakwood and the Houston highway, I was reminded of why we need a traffic light there.

As I was headed to the Mexican restaurant on Ben Wilson, it's as I was seeing Victoria growing before my eyes, I noticed the flurry of construction activity all along the Houston highway. I am amazed that they put so many apartments on that tiny acreage of land. Five head of cattle and two horses couldn't survive on that small plot of land.

I picked this area because this is where we bought our first home and lived there for about 30 years. It didn't take long for the positive vibes to start over taking all the negativity, that I have been absorbing for weeks. I was surprised to read a comment at the VA about the other side of town staying on their side, but some things never change, for some. In the booth next to me ,there were only two of us in the restaurant (not Guerra’s but a new name) so without even trying I overheard a man, which I presumed to be in his sixties, make his order, all the while the while talking on his cell phone in Spanish and English, lining up his lawn cutting jobs for the day. His last call was to Javier, who had overslept, saying that he would be over in 20 minutes, and he had him a taco and then asked him" cream and sugar right?" Can you imagine your boss doing that? As I was leaving, two men and a young teenager, who was still trying to wipe the sleep out of his eyes, were making their way into the restaurant. I was fortunate, that I didn't have to go to work with my step dad because his company would not allow it, so that made me a spoiled adolescent who spent his summer playing baseball until he got home and then the chores began.. The real tortillas, beans and migas took me way back, and I'm feeling a lot better but I'm probably going to need a dose of Houston this weekend to recover fully.

I'm not saying that my era is better than today's because in many ways it's not. I just need to stop now and then to reflect on where I came from, where I've been, and where I'm going. I've got to stop thinking that there's an app, book, or some new theory for that because, as I told a poster last week, "for everything that you read in that book, look to your left, and you will find another book that will contradict everything you just read." I’m pretty sure we didn’t acquire our parenting skills from a book. If you are like us,you made all the mistakes with the first one and tried to improve with the next child but quickly found out that children are as different as night and day. That's the information world we live in. It's no longer Aunt Martha's remedy for colic, dad's wire and masking tape fixes, or as we are now finding out, keeping private information a secret.

I’m sick and tired of people giving their version of the American Dream as if it was a truth certain. The ‘American Dream” can be that man who owns his own grass cutting business, which allows him to spend more time with his family. I’ve always thought it was about opportunity and not about bank accounts and assets. We saw what the most popular version of the “American Dream” got us in 2008.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A $10 an Hour Minimum Wage?

Representative Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-IL) is busy trying to gather sponsors to send a "$10 an hour Minimum Wage" bill. It's practically dead in the water, but  it's a first step in asking for another minimum wage hike increase. The last minimum wage legislation was in 2006 taking three years to bring the increase to the current $7.25 minimum. Some state's minimum wage is higher than that. I remember in 2007, Chicago barred Wal- Mart from inside the city because they do not want to pay the $10.00 an hour minimum wage. Representative Jackson said that the last time we set the correct amount on a minimum wage was in 1968, so in order to meet the 1968 minimum wage increase after indexing for inflation, that amount would be $10.00 an hour. It's not that out of the ordinary because candidate Obama said he wanted to see the minimum wage at $9.50 by 2011. The president never got around to talking about it.

Come on Democrats,you have to get on base,steal second,get bunted over to third and then come home anyway you can;can't just go for the home run ball.

I can see a $10.00 an hour minimum wage phased in over a 5-year period (depending on what party is in power), especially during these hard economic periods. Economists have always been against a minimum wage because of their free-market principles, but they are normally supply- siders. The $2.25 increase will help the demand side of the “supply and demand equation." Henry Ford was not a liberal by any standard, but he recognized that he would prosper with a strong middle class. In 1914. Mr. Ford, established an unheard of $5.00 a day minimum wage in his factories. That $5 a day made the Ford Company much more attractive and made Henry Ford a billionaire. Morale shot up, employee turnover sharply dropped, and, most important, productivity surged. The argument is that Mr. Ford made a free market decision and not one mandated by the government. My answer to that is, competition did not follow suit allowing Henry Ford to become a billionaire and his decision brought up the upper- class to boot. We need to start doing something about the income inequality, but I don't think the answer will be come from the supply side because they will continue out sourcing, employing fewer workers and using more technology to make profits for their shareholders. That's good for my portfolio but it doesn't do a thing for my middle-class working friends,relatives and neighbors.

It's not a one- sided issue because the small-business owner is already burdened with a lot of overhead and with 15 million people unemployed, his goods aren't exactly flying off the shelves. I saw a roundtable discussion where a small-business person said that an increase in the minimum wage would make him shutdown one of his three stores because the little own aspect of raising the minimum wage would mean that he would have to raise the wages of those making $10.00 an hour in order to keep the peace. Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. then said that small businesses had received 18 tax cuts, so it only seems fair that workers get an increase. Remember that story in our paper a few days ago about the employee who worked  all those years at Chesnik's  furniture? I would be willing to bet that his salary is not among the highest; mid-level at best. We know that you can't really make it with $8.75 an hour and considerably less so at $7.25, so even if you account for the fact that those are supposed to be entry level wages, workers have not gone greatly above that for years. It would be wonderful if market competition controlled the wages, and I've seen a good example of that because I remember our company regularly increasing our benefit package, wages, and bonuses and but then that stopped as insurance costs started skyrocketing and they changed their focus to downsizing and increasing the bottom line.

 The $10.00 minimum wage will also get many workers off the government dole and make them taxpayers, they might finish that degree program  that they couldn't afford or start paying their student loans.  It's not all bad but like the one of my favorite political saying goes " Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good."

I don't expect this to be an issue in this year's presidential campaign even thou increasing the minimum wage is a well-liked issue. It's as popular as tax cuts but wait, isn't that one of the reasons we're in this mess in the first place! We always want the goodies, but we don't want to pay them.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Local v National Conservatism

I'm always amazed how conservatives fight the local top down strategies but advocate for them at the national level. I believe progressives consistently want make sure that the environmental standards are up to par but don't really mind if tax incentives are used to lure businesses to our community. On the national front, progressives don't mind the tax breaks for corporations as long as it doesn't take away from the safety net .The moderates will take a little bit of both and will generally come down on both sides, as long it's feasible. Yes,I know liberals and progressives are also all over the map but they have never claimed to have one standard.

I'm glad our newspaper explained tax abatements even they only presented the favorable side. That's really the only way you can explain tax abatements because you can't really explain the negatives without knowing all the details. I realize we have built in incentives for companies to come to our community, such as the barge canal, new schools, close proximity to Corpus Christi, Houston and San Antonio, good hospitals, and a good four year university. Tax abatements at the local level are much like the federal deduction for start up costs. It's basically, "we will make the company's transition cheaper today for tomorrow's tax dollars." Is it a necessary component in order to lure a large industry? I think it's the cost of doing business that has been accepted for a long time. Companies use it for leverage between competing municipals and competitors realize its part of the bidding process. From what I've read and understand from the local conservatives, they think it's an unnecessary cost because they want a distinctive wall of separation between the private and public entities. They don't think that our city or county should be picking winners and losers because that's the root of crony capitalism. That's a good argument but it comes down to a level of trust. For more on abatements, be sure to check out today's editorial here.

Not to dwell on city politics because I don't know the players per say but it was interesting to see where a conservative councilman said that legal funding should not be about politics. He went on to say "But if this project isn't properly funded, the public can expect one of two things to occur. Either the defense of the permit will fail because it wasn't given the funds to succeed, or they will get part way through the fight and have to return to Council for additional funding." That's what confuses me, at the national level the Republicans are doing exactly what the councilman who call himself a conservative, is complaining about. At the federal level, conservatives don't want to pass President Obama's job proposals but they blame him for high unemployment. Can you see where I’m coming from?

These are just two issues but I'm sure there are more, where the consistency is not there. Usually fiscal conservatives usually want a total free market but they know that's virtually impossible, so they resist joint ventures or anything else that will make government look competent. We can't have a total free market as long as we have the Federal Reserve which is capable of manipulating our economy by increasing our knowing interest. Lately, I've seen the Republican Party going back to its libertarian roots by insisting on austerity methods only. There's an argument that some will say is not true because Romney was chosen to lead the party. Is Romney really leading or will he be the puppet of Grover Norquist and Paul Ryan?

I’m not saying that the local conservatives are right or wrong; I just want to know if I’m judging them correctly.I kind of like the local use of the word "conservative" because it appears to be policy over ideology.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

It was Fun while it Lasted

After reading the new rules for blogging and commenting at the VA forum, I decided that I wasn't going to go to all the trouble of opening up a Facebook account just to comment and blog. I didn't think it was important enough for keeping up with family, and that takes a priority. I'm not going to go on and on about my security because I was never threatened nor expected to be. I'm just a stubborn old man, set in his ways.

I do appreciate the opportunity that I was given to state my opinion via blogs and comments over the past five are six years. I like to think that the good days far outweighed the bad ones, and I wish the Victoria Advocate all the success with their new venture. I've seen it grow from five or six featured bloggers and a whole lot of posters commenting on the news of the day. To the chagrin of many, I saw the VA open up the blogging opportunity to everyone; hence, yours truly got his start. I remember when the VA forum had a counter that kept up with total hits and not just blog hits. I had over 25,000 hits, second only Mike (Pilot) Austin, who had over 65,000 I believe, but he had a year's head start on me..:-). I'm joking. I know my limitations, and I know that I don't have 1/10th the skills that Pilot does when it comes to blogging.

I was going to launch my farewell blog  at the VA but after a good night's sleep I decided against it. I read in today's forum where Chris wrote that old bloggers have to abide by the new rules unless they had a very good reason for not doing so. You don't have to hit me over the head with a 2X4. I don't have a good reason ,so why shouldn’t I have to comply, and my pride won't allow me to beg , That’s that but I as of yet, I have not received an e-mail. I would continue blogging if asked, but I really don't want any special privileges and don’t expect to get any.. That ball, as it should be, is in their court. I’m not  that presumptuous to think that I will be missed. I wonder who's going be there to take up the mantle for the other side?

I do believe the new format will be kinder and gentler; for one thing, it might be comprised of younger posters. I don't know for sure, but I don't think the old geezers will go to all the trouble of getting a Facebook account just to do a little commenting. We'll see if recipe trading and unicorns and daffodils, will generate as much traffic as a contentious political debate. Perhaps peace and harmony will override everything else because we all know that using your full name is a deterrent for posting vile statements. If I'm allowed to, I will log in now and then to see how things are going. I can just imagine a conversation about President Obama: “you know he's a good man, bless his heart, but he's just over his head, and I wish him and his wife all the best in their next endeavor" signed Mr. Not Anonymous.

I would be lying if I said I was not going to miss it,especially the discussions with my on- line friends but life goes on and who knows what life will bring tomorrow, but I know I won't be opening a Facebook account.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

I Didn’t Know That

I didn't know Texas has a "Supreme Being "clause in its constitution. I'm not applauding or objecting to the clause because until today I didn't know it was in there.

This is how Article 1 Section 4 of the Texas Constitution reads: " No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust, in this state; nor should anyone be excluded from holding office on account of his religious sentiments, provided he acknowledge the existence of a Supreme Being.

I remember Madalyn O'Hair's many fights with the state legislators but I wrote her off as being a nutcase. Little did I know that she took her fight to Federal Court and won. She said that the Texas Constitution would bar atheists from running for office. She won the cases as a voter because she wasn't running for public office at the time. The outcome is strange because she made a deal with then Atty. General Jim Mattox. The agreement read: the parties here by agree that the last phrase, “provided he acknowledge the existence of a Supreme Being." is void in no further effect in that it is in violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. “Here is the strange part, Atty. General Jim Mattox agreed not to force it on the part of the state but it's never been removed from the Texas Constitution, even though everyone agrees that it's unconstitutional.

I usually hold professionals to a higher standard, so it disappoints me that legislators, of which most are lawyers, would allow the clause to stand knowing full well that it's unconstitutional. Then again I've heard stories from secretaries of local attorneys telling me that I have set the standards too high for lawyers and they could easily prove their point but they wanted to keep their job.

Anyway the article is in today's Texas Tribune.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

It’s not Saturday but it’s still a rant

I can't say I'm surprised that I received another boilerplate response, I assume for being part of the hyper- partisanship. It's as they are above the fray and being "a little bit pregnant" is not the same as being consistently on one side.

Beakus has called me out three times in six years for being partisan. He has said I should write about something else, like the wonderful blogs Jared used to write. He ignores me when I tell him that his words would go a long way in gaining my respect, if he placed his well chosen words on a blog of a right leaning blogger or even a thread; “Obamacare is hurting Christian America” could be a starter.

I think it's selfish to want everyone to conform to your standards. I fully understand his message of” fueling the fire. " I take steps to control that part but politics it's not for the lame and the squeamish. I guess what he’s trying to say that because he doesn’t like politics, no one should. He doesn’t know that some people say that about religion. He knows that I don’t wear my religion on my sleeve but it didn’t stop him from making a lot religious posts on my blog.

It’s strange how it goes sometimes because in a previous blog I was dispelling all the myths about liberals and to my surprise and I received a lot of positive civil responses. The next blog I wrote about what little I knew about the security leaks and received many negative responses. I wasn’t trying to be partisan because I was writing in a manner as it was presented over the week end. 

Now, I wonder if some of those same posters expect their filtered media to present both sides equally? I think some try to depict me as being the only or the most partisan blogger in the forum...I’m certainly in the top 5...:-)

Saturday, June 9, 2012

We just agree to disagree

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About the only time people on different sides of an issue agree, is when they quit posting and decide to call it a day. Just when you think people are starting to come to some consensus, in comes a poster with all intent to upset the apple cart and the ones who were starting to agree, go right back to their partisan corner because  their reinforcements arrived.

 If you been on our forum for any length of time you should know what side I will take on just about any issue. It's in my DNA but I still know that there is another side that has a legitimate point of view. I believe this is why EA said that posters should be more forthcoming because she likes to know who she is arguing with and what they stand for. That's why it's puzzling that stillthewaywardwind and BigJ compared them self to cattleman. Nothing could be further from the truth, in my opinion. So far, cattleman has not been controversial and has been willing to entertain both sides, even though he might have a difference of opinion. It's not a knock on the two individuals I mentioned but like myself, their views are known and they certainly aren't as willing to try to understand both sides of the issues. For example, stillthewaywardwind, give the impression that the police in Colorado had no possible cause to temporarily detain some innocent civilians. You can read a story for yourself here

Democrats often lose their arguments with Republicans because the latter will always stick to their guns, no matter what the polls say, they will find words to make people change their minds and as Bill Maher pointed out last night. You'll always hear a republican candidate speak proudly of his conservative credentials and condemn government and then convince their constituents to send them to Washington to be a member of a body they hate. On the other side, my party refuses to embrace the healthcare law that was passed or Dodd-Frank and they wonder why the arguments are being fought on the right of center home field. They call the president a socialist but if he is; he's a terrible one. Think about it, the public option was never on the table, the president never nationalize the banks although he should have broke them up, he's barely saying that we need firefighters, policemen, and teachers (public sector jobs) and is mostly bragging about the 4.3 million private sector jobs that were created. The Tea Party holds the Republicans feet- to -the fire but the liberals aren't doing the same to the president. Yes liberals are complaining a little bit but they're not trying to find liberal replacements like the Tea Party did in their party.

I'm interested in hearing some good solutions on fixing our educational system. That shouldn't be a conservative, liberal argument but a lot of people think it is and we can't make it to first base. I guess we should all start off in agreement that parents, students, and teachers unions are all part of the problem and try to move the ball from there. It doesn't seem unreasonable to me to think that nutrition, sleep and exercise should be part of the solution starting at the elementary level where bad trends start. I still believe that Brockton Massachusetts has it right by emphasizing that English is the most important subject. I've mentioned that Brockton Massachusetts used to be a powerhouse football school but dead last in academics. They changed that when the students became proficient in English; then they were able to catch up to speed and learned other subjects at a much faster rate.

I've been ignoring this blog because strangely enough, most of my time has been spent having some civil discussions on my VA blog. I think things are getting back to normal;back to just disagreeing.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Payroll Secrecy

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When I was in the workforce, I couldn't understand why supervisors were not allowed to disclose their salary. I can understand someone wanting to keep their payroll information to themselves but our company did not allow those in management to disclose their salary even if they wanted to. It became quite a guessing game for the underlings.

It didn't matter if the workers disclosed because everyone was paid on a progression scale based on their service dates. No big secret. Then some companies started grading their workers, and assigned them to classes (A, B &C) according to value to the company. When that system went into place; the company did not their employees to discuss their wages. It was a firing offense.

"The Institute for Women’s Policy Research has found that nearly half of all workers are either forbidden or strongly discouraged from sharing that information, yet “pay secrecy makes it difficult for women and men to find out whether they are paid fairly, and undermines attempts to reduce the gender wage gap.”

The senate is trying to correct some fallacies in the Paycheck Fairness Act by ensuring that employees are allowed to talk to each other about their wages but I have my doubts that it will pass. Their goal is to stop the gender gap.

I'm in a dilemma, on one hand I believe employers should be able institute rules for the workplace but on the other hand I don't want them to abuse their power by discriminating on how they pay their employees. I believe women should get equal pay for equal work but if a company is not going to do that; they should be upfront.

I never really cared what other people made as long as I received a paycheck. Then again I wasn't discriminated against because of my gender.