Saturday, August 29, 2009

It is what it is or is it?

Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele on NPR's Morning Edition
You have Medicare. You have Amtrak. You have the Post Office - all these government-run agencies that try to inject themselves into private markets typically don't do too well. My only point is that, okay, Medicare is what it is. It's not going anywhere. So let's focus on fixing it so that we don't every three, five, 10 years have discussions about bankruptcy and running out of money.
There is no argument with his last point. However, his first point must be addressed.

I am perplexed at the comments that come from the right. They are either purposely designed to perpetuate an idea- to distrust government's abilities in order to reduce it's standing - or they actually believe their comments to be true. I am beginning to think that the right has pushed aside intellectuals and instead welcomed in a leadership that believes in an idea but without an understanding of what is actually taking place.

So for the benefit of Mr. Steele and all those that think this way.

Private corporations have a mandate to serve their shareholders. Government corporations (medicare, Amtrak, the Post Office) have a mandate to serve the people. You cannot serve two masters. This is a truth and I welcome anyone to present an argument to the contrary.

Unless the shareholders choose to serve the people or are mandated through contract, law, regulation, or force, they will serve their own self-interest. Does this mean that those in charge of the government programs behave in an altruistic way? No, they too look out for their own self interests as well. The difference here is the mandate. You cannot compare Medicare, Amtrak, and the Post Office to how a corporation would do it. They work under two distinct different principles.

So my question is this. Did Haliburton provide a better service to our troops then the government would have with government employees? Did they do it more efficiently and at less cost?

The idea that government is inefficient because it is government is a myth. Its problems are from lack of will and resolve, made worse by a party that believes itself to benefit more from its failure than from its success. If we are served better by corporations, then you would not hear any argument from me. We are not, simply because the corporation will always serve itself first over my needs. Give me the Post Office's foibles over Enron, Arthur Anderson, AIG, Bear Sterns, and GM any day.

So naively, I will try to put this argument to rest by showing how Mr. Steele is wrong. When FedEx needs to deliver a package to a remote rural address whom do they use? They use the Post Office. Why? Because the post office has a mandate to serve all addresses in the US, FedEx will only serve areas that are profitable - if there was not a Post Office FedEx would not deliver there unless the cost could be recouped. This is the same principle that awaits Medicare and Amtrak if we turn it over to the private sector.

For a little over $10.00 I can ship a box anywhere in the US by the Post Office. If you took FedEx and UPS out of the picture, this box would get delivered. However, if you take the Post Office away, many addresses would most likely no longer be served. Unless someone is willing to pay for it, corporations will only focus on endeavors that bring in the best rate of return. That is their mandate, and that is what they will do if you let them take over health care, the post office, or Amtrak. This corporate mandate serves you well if your are a shareholder, but it does not serve the people overall.

Let corporations take care of our wants and government take care of our needs.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Slippery Slope of Stupidity

MSNBC 2/21/08 - Air Force Col. Morris Davis, now head of the Air Force judiciary, said he believes "there are some very bad men at Guantanamo and some of them deserve the death penalty."

As part of the judiciary, Col. Davis has the right to believe, so what is the next step when the prosecutor "believes" that the party committed the act? Well the sixth Amendment to our Constitution comes to mind. You know, blah blah blah...speedy trial....blah blah..informed of charges....assistance of counsel. You know, things so important that they put it in there way at the begining. But wait Jeff, they also said in the 5th "except in cases arising time of War or public danger." DoH! Don't have to! neener neener neener.

So that means what? We can do what ever we want?

There are things in life that we call slippery slopes. Gitmo was one of them. It served a purpose but created a problem, because not everyone who was sent there was bad. It was, and this is the fault of conservative thought, better to side with us then with them. They could be guilty, they could have done it. Some are bad - we know that, lets err on the side of protection.
He was picked up in Afghanistan in 2002. No one knows how old he was, maybe as young as 12. The Pentigon did a bone scan and said he was 17.
His lawyers say he has grown five inches during his time behind bars. He was accused of throwing a grenade and wounding Americans.
"I think the rules are fair," Col Davis said. "I think the problem is having political appointees injected into the system. They are looking for a political outcome, not justice."
So where is the justice after 7 years for a kid who, may or may not have done what he was accused of doing?

This is what makes the whole Gitmo thing so wrong, because it goes against what we are supposed to stand and fight and die for - that Constitution thingy, remember?

At some point they knew he was not one of those "bad men" and they knew he was also a kid. But because releasing him would be an admission of their mistake, they ignore it, passing it on so that someone else will make the call and take the heat. If he did do the deed then he should have been tried and sentenced.

How is that justice?

So lucky for us we have that three branches of government thingy that they also set up which gives us the ability to right a wrong using the law (oh the irony on that!).
July 30, 2009 (Reuters) — A U.S. judge on Thursday ordered that one of the youngest detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Judge Huvelle excoriated the government for the way it has handled this and other Guantanamo cases.
Cool! And thank God we got ol' Obama as our new Prez! Surely he will also do the right thing!
The Obama administration insisted it still was weighing a criminal case in U.S. federal court against Jawad for allegedly tossing a grenade that wounded two U.S. soldiers and their interpreter in Kabul in late 2002, but that no decision has been made.
August 24, 2009 (NPR) - One of the youngest people ever held at Guantanamo was welcomed home Monday by Afghanistan's president and joyful relatives after almost seven years in prison — freed by a military judge who ruled he was coerced into confessing to wounding U.S. soldiers with a grenade.
And as if on queue.....
Justice Department officials have said the criminal investigation of Jawad is still open but his transfer back to Afghanistan makes prosecution unlikely.

Ahhh the sweat sound of Justice....Not!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

We are the handyman

“They think Government is the way to fix everything.”

Same line, different day. Liberals want Government to take care of everything, conservatives want little Government involvement. Oh, if it was only that simple. It is in the mind of the 21st century conservative fed on a diet of rhetoric and government bashing. But I just sit there, mum, caught between wanting to challenge them on this idea but faced with the reality that it will isolate me in the community as well as it will not do anything to change their thinking. These people are too well indoctrinated into the idea that government is bad.
Glen Beck’s Point 1: America is good.
How can America be good if its government is bad?

Glen Beck’s Point 9: The government works for me. I do not answer to them, they answer to me.
Who is “me”? If it answers to me, then it does my bidding. What about the other 304 million citizens? Unless we are all on the same page we are going to have some issues that need to be sorted out. Well how about majority rules? Sounds fair, unless you are in the minority.

So my question to people who believe government is bad, or should not be the one to fix things, is this. If you do not task government with the responsibility of fixing problems associated with 304 million people trying to live together, who will be given this responsibility? Who decides what is a problem of “the common good” and what needs to be fixed? Who should be responsible for maintaining the "happiness" for the people?

The mantra from the right has been that government cannot fix things, it should not meddle, it should stay out of our lives, that I know best how to take care of my own business. In a sense, what is being fed to people is we do not need government, or at the very least, we need our government not yours.

The idea that “I know what is best for me” only works if what is best for you does not interfere with what is best for me. Anyone that thinks that people will do the right thing should watch what takes place in a store parking lot during “tax free” day. People do not do what is in the best interest of everyone, they do what is in their own self interest. Government can, and should, be tasked with doing what is in the common interest.

If America is good, as Glen Beck says it is, it is because of its 304 million people’s ability to function. The common good is the foundation for this. Good government maintains the happiness of the people. So let’s keep Beck’s point 1 “America is Good” and change Point 9 to something a little more Benjamin Franklin like:
Point 9: The government works for us. I sacrifice to the public good and in return my government procures and secures my happiness.
We the people = We the government. If the government can't fix problems then we can't fix problems. If the government is the enemy of the people then the enemy is us.

You get the point.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

US History with a dash of Newt

In today’s paper “Plans for texts has many riled up – Texas public school students should learn about Newt Gingrich and other conservative politicians but not liberals according to the first draft of proposed standards” all brought to you by the Texas State Board of Education.

First thought through my head was “to the victors go the spoils” which, as I was told as a kid, means that history is written by those in control. Now I don’t expect much from the same group that had a religious neocon at its lead and just recently hired another one in his place. These folks have an agenda, they are biased, and really don’t care about truth or fairness if it runs counter to what they want and believe.

But to be fair, I cannot just take what the “liberal” press feeds me, because you know they have an agenda too – just ask Sarah Palin. No, but really, the press is prone to misunderstanding just like the rest of us, and since everyone quotes and presents the same story, if it is wrong to start with it gets passed on as wrong. So being the good lil’ scientist I am, I find the document and the passage.

Now I have no idea if the group that put this together had an agenda to snub liberals or indoctrinate our youth to think and become conservative. It is possible that what they were trying to do is show the shift in mindset as we moved into the 21st century. That shift, like it or not, was towards conservative views and policy ushered in by Newt Gingrich and the moral majority it it changes the lay of the land significantly. So it is possible that there was no mention of liberal movers and shakers because they played very little in this shift.

On the other hand, the requirement to study Phyllis Schlafly does not hold well for this argument, in my opinion, since she was no more a player in this process as anyone on the left or right. Understanding how Conservative advocacy is how one “understands the circumstances of the US as it emerges into the 21st century." Students should know how it came about, who the players were, and how it took place.

So before we tar and feather these guys for promoting their conservative agenda. Let’s back off a bit and hear what they have to say. If my take is correct, then it is important for kids to know, because I was also told way back when that those who do not study history are doomed to repeat the same mistakes again.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Listening without hearing

Proof that people will yell support for anything, regardless of what was just said.

Borat at rodeo: "May George Bush drink the blood drink the blood of every single man, woman, and child of Iraq"

Crowd: Whoops and hollers in support.

Blue October - Argue with a tree - intro to James: "This is a song about hurting someones feelings so bad"

Crowd: Whoops and hollers in support.

NPR - Man to Rep Brian Baird (D-WA) at a health care town-hall meeting: "I am a marine, as a disabled veteran that served this country, I have kept my oath, do you ever intend to keep yours?"

Crowd: Whoops and hollers in support.

This was right after (but not caught on tape) the crowd was demanding to know if AmeriCorps volunteers were arming to take over the country and whether the health care plan would dictate how parents would raise their children.

$10 bucks says they whooped and hollered at that too.

Monday, August 17, 2009

You Go Girl...please...go

I am no fan of Texas A&M's athletics director Bill Byrne ever since he canceled Scouts day at Kyle Field a few years back so he could sell the seats originally promised to the area youth organizations including the Boy and girl Scouts.

The Eagle has a fairly in-depth article on his department and the financial problems Aggie Athletics are having under his watch. What I found interesting are two of the reasons for the deficit:
"If we had been selling out Kyle Field, you would not be asking me these questions," Byrne told The Eagle last week. "We would be operating in the black."
And if only I could win the lottery all my financial troubles would be over too!

"The department spends $20 million on women's sports for every $1 million those teams bring in. That spending has allowed the department to stay compliant with federal law while receiving national acclaim."
Those gosh-darn pesky woman and their stupid Title 9 law! He would have 19 million extra dollars if they would just go back to the way it was before we were MADE to let them play.

News Flash Mr. Byrne, Woman's Sports has succeeded at A&M because of the woman who participated, not because of you, your new buildings, your loan, or your $690,000.00 salary.

The financial problems any organization is experiencing are the result of a number of things, but failure of leadership is what allows them to manifest. From the "buck stops here" to the "buck is past here."

You've come a long way baby! Now go home

Friday, August 14, 2009

Bong hits for Justice

What is the difference between Glenn Beck, Michael Phelps, Warren Christopher Scroggins, and Whitney Ann Parrish?

Only Scroggins and Parrish got caught with it.

Which brings me to Beck's point number 5:
If you break the law you pay the penalty. Justice is blind and no one is above it.
So there Beck was, token the whacky tobacky, saying to himself "father really does know best!" And Phelps, not wanting to go to Disneyland, found himself lip-locked with a "marijuana pipe" (I love it when the press acts like they don't know what a bong is).

Both broke the law and nothing happened. Oh Phelps lost Kellogg's but he still makes more in one year then I will make in 20. They are not above the law, only lucky enough to not get caught.

But Scroggins and Parrish on the other hand, for less than 5 ounces are up for a felony. A felony that will stop them from living any assemblage of the life that me, Beck or Phelps get to live if they are found guilty.

We need to really look at the damage we cause to people, especially young kids, when we brand them with a felony. Two kids under 21 should not be punished for life for doing the same thing that a large - and I do mean large - percentage of respectable citizens have done as well. Why should they pay such a high price for a youthful indiscretion?

So lets see if Mr. Beck will change point 5 to something a little more fair.
If you break the law you pay a penalty, correct your mistake, and move on. No one found guilty should be denied an opportunity for redemption, forgiveness, or absolution. Justice is blind and no one is above it.
And on this note, today Lynette "squeaky" Fromme, was released on parole from federal prison after spending three decades behind bars. Charles Manson had recruited her off the street in the Venice section of Los Angeles when she was a troubled 18-year-old college student.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Glenn Beck - Ultimate Authority

Glenn Beck has nine principles he has put forth. According to his website:
Our Founding Fathers built this country on 28 powerful principles. These principles were culled from all over the world and from centuries of great thinkers. We have distilled the original 28 down to the 9 basic principles.
Funny, when I went to look for these original 28 all I can find is reference to God, which, if I know my founding fathers correctly, got the appropriate nod and then it was down to business, silly things like separation of power, representation, law. Anyway on to Mr. Beck......

There is a common theme for conservatives and libertarians, that is "we know best." Now that is an OK principle but when you know best prohibits or infringes on me, well now we gots us a problem! I have said it before, you cannot manage 300 million folks without a government which means idiot conservatives need to have a voice just like naive loony liberals. Which means we have to compromise and do what is best for everyone overall. Y'all need to live with my right to carry and public schools without prayer. Two way street there pardner!

So back to Mr. Beck...jeez!
Point 4. The family is sacred. My spouse and I are the ultimate authority, not the government.
Common conservative theme. I know what is best for me and my family and I don't need no stink'n gov'ment to tell me how to live! America! USA! USA! USA!

And now Mr. Beck will demonstrate just how this "ultimate authority" should work in the homes of America:

PAULA ZAHN NOW Hooked: When You Can't Stop Aired March 15, 2007

ZAHN: "Addiction" airs tonight at 9:00 p.m. Eastern on HBO.

Some parents don't have to save a child from addiction; they need to save themselves. That was the case for my colleague Glenn Beck.


BECK: I would get up, do the show, run the radio stations, come home, by 5:00, not a second after, I would pour myself one tumbler. I would smoke a bong, and take it from there.

ZAHN: Were you doing this with kids in the house?

BECK: Mm-hmm.

ZAHN: Did your kids see you...


ZAHN: ... get stoned?
OK, so unlike Dr. Laura, he actually admits it, what is missing is the acknowledgment that if he was the ultimate authority he was a poor one. So lets rewrite point 4:
The family is sacred to be worshiped with ganja. My spouse and I are the ultimate authority on how best to harm and/or endanger our children, not the government who's interest in my family's well-being does nothing but show how shitty a parent I am.

Next blog: what is the difference between Glenn Beck, Michael Phelps, Warren Christopher Scroggins, and Whitney Ann Parrish?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Please sir, can I have some more?

More of Matt Friedeman’s christian fellowship:
“The battlefield now shifts from Capitol Hill to each congressional district, and we’re calling in reinforcements – YOU!” To help you in that effort, we’ve produced a short list of key concerns and questions, which are copied below. “
Question for your Congressmen: Will you oppose any healthcare reform bill that in any way limits my access to healthcare or medicines recommended by my doctor?
News Flash! Access to health care is rationed in the US already:
  1. Preexisting illnesses not covered or denial of insurance altogether
  2. Denial of certain treatments and procedures recommended
  3. Non-coverage for certain treatments and procedures
  4. Denial of payment for treatment and procedures already performed
When someone else is paying the bill they will, do, and can limit coverage regardless of what is recommended by the doctor. To believe that this is not currently taking place is to be terribly naive and really out of touch with our current system.

This “OMG they will ration my healthcare if Obama has his way” is ignoring the fact that health care is rationed all the time by insurance companies. If you saw the movie “The Incredibles” Bob Parr’s job at the insurance company was to deny claims. That was pre-Obama mind you.

Here is the rub, under our present system when a claim is denied, it benefits the insurance company and its shareholders (and indirectly policy holders). In Britain for example, when new/experimental care is denied for coverage it is done to allow the rest of society to have access to healthcare. So you need to decide who you want to help with the rationing, because rationing will happen UNLESS you are willing to pay for it. And since the other big complaint against healthcare reform is the cost, I will hazard a guess that cheap will be the soup d’jur.

So do you ration to increase insurance company profits or do you ration to provide coverage to all? You can’t have your damn cake and eat it too. Choose one.

Note: Apparently I was not the only one to think of Bob Parr. While searching for the name of his company I came across another blog that referenced it.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Onward christian shillmen....

After seeing my last post the wife asks me ”why are you looking for Christian radio stations?”

When I rent a car for work, I like to listen to public radio which is on the low end of the dial – yea the left side – so what of it! To get to the station 89.1, I have to go thru a few “christian” radio stations that have decided to take up residence where traditional public radio access has resided.

So a few days ago, while on my way to 89.1 I get stopped on 89.9

“We need to oppose Obamacare!”

“We need to show up at these town meetings and be vocal, let’s not be violent, that’s not how Christians should act…..”

“We need to……"

So there I was listening to this guy, on a christian radio station, asking myself the question who is “we”?

This christian talk show host is a guy named Matt Friedeman and apparently the “we” he is speaking to are folks that listen to christian radio stations, which I assume are Christians wanting to listen to a "family friendly" radio station (or guys like me just passing through).

There seems to be a general theme to the “talk” on these christian stations – that is it is almost always anti-Obama and anti-democrat. I am not sure exactly why opposing health care reform requires the work of Christians, unless when you ask yourself the question “What would Jesus do?” and you receive a divine answer of ”go forth and disrupt town-hall meetings!”

Under the guise of morality, the domain of the preacher/religious zealot, arguments can be made for and against any proposed law or government action. Guys like Friedeman should be arguing, like Jesus would have, for health care coverage that is not dependent on if one has a job that provides coverage and/or one is rich enough to pay for it.

I have read Mr. Friedeman’s opposition points to the healthcare debate, they are primarily based on a misunderstanding and/or fear, which in my opinion, is put out there to illicit apprehension which will lead to opposition.

Friedman and his ilk are either terribly naive, ignorant, misguided, or shills for those whose agenda is not one in the best interest of society as a whole. There are legitimate concerns that need to be addressed, but opposition just to oppose is not going to solve this problem.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Jugstaposition (sorry, couldn't stop myself)

juxtaposition: the act or an instance of placing two or more things side by side; also : the state of being so placed.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

What's in it for me?

At some basic level, it really comes down to am I better off now than before? All things considered, I have stagnated, so whatever economic policies under the previous President were in place, really did little to change my lot in life.

But under Obama, within his first six months I get a new car!

With the cash for clunkers program, I received $4500 for our 94 4-wheel drive Explorer. Ford pitched in $1000, and I got another $2500 because of where I work. Then to top it all, Ford gave us three years financing at zero percent interest.

Finally a government program I get to partake in, and I finally get a car with air conditioning and windows that will roll up! Wins all around! The salesman gets a commission, the dealership makes money, and Ford sells another car.

I am sad that the Explorer had to be euthanized, she was still running strong even after 15 years. I also sympathize with the auto wreckers that lose a good engine, but the program was designed to stimulate the economy and remove less fuel efficient vehicles off the road which reduces foreign oil demand and reduces pollution (unless I drive it more since it does have AC).

All in all not a bad program with the exception of the dealership is up in the air as to if the government will follow through on their end, which leaves me with the possibility of the deal falling through.

If that happens then I will not have a new car and therefore will not like Obama.