Thursday, October 28, 2010

Are we the people we've been waiting for

President Obama was on the Daily Show last night and took a "profound disagreement" to one of John Stewart's questions.  Leaning forward in his chair to make his point bold, he told Stewart:
"This notion that healthcare was timid..."
But that's not the timid Stewart was talking about, at least I don't think it was, since I understood the question posed to Obama in the context of what, I too, think has been a problem with Obama's use of the bully pulpit.

Stewart said:
"You said great leaders lead in a time of opportunity...we're the ones we are looking for.  Yet legislatively it has felt timid at times.  I'm not sure at times what you wanted out of the health care bill...."
In other words, what we needed from you, then, and now, is boldness.  Rhetoric is just that, however, it does have the power to restore or sustain momentum.  Behind the scenes, the deals, the compromise, the politics...that's the sausage being made.  What we need from the leader is - this will be the best tasting, healthy, good for you sausage you could ever dream of.

Obama tried to play the give and take model, because that's actually how things get done in a democracy, or for that matter, in any situation where you have over 250 million people living under one roof.  Where Obama failed, and the Democrats as well, is that they did not counter the opposition's rhetoric with there own.

Obama was caught off guard with how difficult Republicans were going to make the job of leading.  Under a "normal" give and take political atmosphere, his model would have worked quite well.  But the desire to obtain control back from the Democrats has taken precedence over governing.  This is not something new,

And what this desire has unleashed is a monster that does not care who gets hurt in its path towards dominance. What Obama, the Democrats, and the bulk of us did not realize is how many people would welcome it into our lives.

No politician can win - legally - without someone voting for them.  Those votes need to be gained through whatever means necessary.  So if fear works, make people fearful.  If negative works, sling mud.  The Tea Party unleashed the beast, bought into how necessary it was for it to destroy this new "audacity of hope."

The monster did not come out on its own, it came when there was no concerted effort to keep it at bay.  Not in my wildest dreams would I ever have thought my fellow Americans were as stupid, ignorant, and as self-serving as I have come to see them as now.  And I too, have been timid in my recourse.

The Teas Party rhetoric was not countered which emboldened the Republican politicians looking for a way to get back into power.  What they adopted was a simple strategy of "No" to everything.  No compromise, no quid pro quo, no politicking...just "No" to everything.  Failure means disgust, disgust leads to wanting a change.  The Tea Party momentum emboldened them.

And because Obama and the bulk of us did not see the monster that they were willing to let lose, we did nothing to stop its release.  So now we have a President who needs 60% to get something passed.  Not a majority, but 60%.

And we the people see nothing wrong with that?  No, we the people fall into one of three camps:

  • Failure is good for us.  President is bad.
  • Congress can't get anything done.  Throw the bums out.
  • Let the process work.  Compromise and vote.

Unfortunately there are few of us who see bullet three as an option.  Republicans want the first, and the bulk of the people have no idea of the super majority "requirement" and instead adopt the "it's broke" attitude of number two.  That's where Obama has missed his opportunity to redirect the mindset.

So that's what I think Stewart meant by Obama being timid.  Not the legislation itself, but the lack of boldness from the audacity of hope leader to stand up quickly to the we-want-you-to-fail beast.  The only way to counter a message is with one of your own.  Why did we ever let "socialism" become a normal word to describe what most of us voted for?

So take the gloves off Mr. President.  Everything you say must be bold, that audacity thing has to ring from every word and action.  If they want to see you fail make sure that message is out there loud and clear.  Then, when no one is looking get on with the making of sausage.  The best damn sausage you and Congress can possibly make.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Cal Thomas in the Oct 20 San Antonio Express had an article titled "How to begin cutting budget?  Here's a plan"

Mr. Thomas starts off with the statement:
In the last two years, spending by the current Congress has increased 21.4 percent, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
Now looking at that statement one would think wow! them tax and spend Demoncrats are at it again!  Has spending increased?  Yes.  Was there a reason for this increase?  That depends on which model you wanted to follow.  Obama's model said - pump money into the economy to replace money that is being withheld by nervous investors and a public now in 'save mode'.  The opposing model; let the chips fall where they may - hands off - was not chosen.

No one has hindsight to know which model would work best.  You can't say the one not chosen is better because, well, you have no data.  There are economists that will tell you their model is better, but as the Authors of Superfreakonomics stated, economists today can't agree on if Roosevelt's New Deal programs were good or bad.

Economics is not my strong point.  I know enough about the basic principles in play to be able to listen, but not enough about the dynamics to make any type of bold statement as to what is, or is not, sound.  So when a statement like "spending by the current Congress has increased 21.4 percent" is made, it is stated primarily for the sake of appearance and not to show cause and effect.

Which means I too can show something that has a lot of detail enclosed, but paints a really striking picture when you look at it.

US Outlays v. Revenue

If you are like me, this probably looks a little confusing, especially if you don't understand the terms associated with each line.  Here is how the CBO defines them:
Outlays: Spending to pay a federal obligation. Outlays may pay for obligations incurred in a prior fiscal year or in the current year; hence, they flow partly from unexpended balances of prior-year budget authority and partly from budget authority provided for the current year. For most categories of spending, outlays are recorded on a cash accounting basis. However, outlays for interest on debt held by the public are recorded on an accrual accounting basis, and outlays for direct loans and loan guarantees (since credit reform) reflect estimated subsidy costs instead of cash transactions.
Revenues: Funds collected from the public that arise from the government’s exercise of its sovereign or governmental powers. Federal revenues come from a variety of sources, including individual and corporate income taxes, excise taxes, customs duties, estate and gift taxes, fees and fines, payroll taxes for social insurance programs, and miscellaneous receipts (such as earnings of the Federal Reserve System, donations, and bequests). Federal revenues are also known as federal governmental receipts.
So what you are looking at in this graph is a lot of accounting stuff.  That means that behind each point on the graph is something that may, or may not, be the fault or credit of the group in charge.  Yes it has spiked in 2010 because of the stimulus.  But that stimulus was the result of an economy that was collapsing.  Same thing can be said for the dip in 2001 under Bush.  That's when 9/11 hit and people changed their behavior which affected our economy.

You can also see a real dip in revenue under Bush because of the 2001 & 2003 tax cuts, which I contend, was ill advised since we had a war going on and we, as a society, should have paid for that instead of borrowing money from China to pay for it.  But I digress.

An argument could be made from the graph that revenue increased around 2004, but some of that could be from a nice little deal worked out that would temporarily drop the tax rate to 5.25 percent and hundreds of billions of dollars came back into the US.

Another argument could be made that this is when the real estate bubble was starting to kick into high gear and lots and lots of money was changing hands.  But revenue based on a bubble, in my opinion, is not a sound way to sustain a big ol' giant entity like the US.  And in 2009 you see it sink when the bubble burst.  If you look at the graph to bolster the argument that tax cuts increase revenue, then I think you are missing what is really behind those graph points.

But lets say the graph - as it looks - does support a few perceptions.  Obama has increased spending, the Bush tax cuts increased revenue.  It's all there in the graph.  OK, fine.

What else does the graph show?

Which president had the best period of revenue vs. outlays?  Go can do it.  Say it...say it....

President Bill Clinton - 1993 through 2001.

Oh, and remember, that outlays include interest on the debt.  All that borrowing for the war and stimulus adds up in the form of an interest payment - which, by the way, is going to the rich investor types who argue against any increase in their tax rate and make huge bonus payments for their wise investing deals. 

We are fools to not recognize this and, as a Nation, pay for it now.  You cannot cut spending enough to slash the debt being accrued.  It has to come from taxes.  Either raise them or stimulate the economy to the point that revenue increases because money is changing hands and taxes are collected.

We got a crises here people, get off your blame the other guy horse and start walking the talk.  If we want it fixed, then we need to accept that our bad behaviour in the past has brought us to this juncture. 

It wasn't me that did it....or was it?'s all Obama's fault.  Just look at the graph!

Monday, October 25, 2010

What does a bad guy look like?

I was going to try and offer a 'here is what he is thinking' analysis of Fox and Friends' Brian Kilmeade's recent remark:
“not all Muslims are terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslim.”
...but then I came across this little gem of wisdom that dribbled through his lips:
"we keep marrying other species and other ethnics and ... the Swedes have pure genes, because they marry other Swedes. Because that's the rule."
...and realized that I can't defend anyone stupid enough to believe this and then say it - out loud - to millions of people.  Didn't eugenics get discredited back in the 40's?

But alas, it still trudges onward, thanks to Fox News and the "Friends" they keep.  They seem to have a knack for putting in front of the cameras not just talking heads, but idiot talking heads blurting out the most illogical reasons and opinions for what is taking place in the world.

So on to what I wanted to write about....What does a bad guy look like?

With the understanding that Brian Kilmeade is an idiot, lets ignore the "him" in this equation and look at it from the standpoint that there are lots and lots of Brian Kilmeades in the world all prone to think illogically, egged on by fear mongers and Fox News who has settled on a business model of 'we tell you what you want to hear so you watch us and we can sell advertising.'

So lets look at a Kilmeade statement that is - and I know this to be true - shared by a lot of other people:
"From what we've seen from the Khobar Towers to the Cole bombing to the embassy bombings to the Times Square, the shoe bomber, do you think Americans have a right to look at moderate Muslims and say, 'Show me you're not one of them.'
"it's time for the military to have special debriefings" of Muslims, because "I've got to know the guy next to me is not going to want to kill me."
How does one show that they are not one of them?  Should they sign a confession?  A declaration?  Raise their right hand and swear to God and the Koran?  Take a lie detector test?  Water-boarded?

What would suffice as proof?  I contend - and  Kilmeade and his lot know this - there is no proof that can be offered.  They are asking for something that can never be achieved because you can never know what is in the heart of the person sitting next to you.

So what does this mean?  It means that the only logical way to view the culprits in the "war that was declared on us" is excepting the fact that - as he stated:
"all terrorists are Muslim"
Now if we did not learn anything from locking up Japanese Americans in internment camps during WWII then I don't know what else could be offered as proof that painting the individual with the same brush does nothing to further anything real other than to make you "feel" better. 

Apparently Kilmeade and his fellow classmates slept through their history class.  Which was a shame because the hero of conservatism, ol' Ronald Reagan himself, signed legislation which apologized for the internment on behalf of the U.S. government which stated that government actions were based on:
"race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership".
...and you thought only Obama was an apologist for America's misunderstood behavior!

You see?  That type of 1940's thinking is no different than what is being supported by Kilmeade, O'Reilly, and Fox News in general in the year 2010.

One needs to fight this illogical and harmful way of thinking simply by replacing the object of fear with an object one relates to.  Would it carry the same weight if one said:
  1. All conservatives are pro-life?
  2. All Tea Party members are Republicans?
  3. All men are stronger than woman?
  4. All woman are mothers?
In the cases above, the majority is true, yet one cannot make the statement that All are.  This is the same with Muslims.  A small fraction are radical and even a smaller fraction of those are terrorists.  The chance of a person who is Muslim being a terrorist, supporting terrorism, or having terrorist leanings is far less than a woman being a mother, so if you can't say all 'women are mothers' you can also not say 'all terrorists are Muslims.'

Or, looking at it another way:
  • Mohamed Ali is a Muslim, therefore,
  • Mohamed Ali is a terrorist.
  • If Mohamed Ali is not a terrorist, then he is not a Muslim
But if you were to ask Mohamed Ali his take on the above he would say most likely: 'I am a Muslim and I am not a terrorist.'  At which Brian Kilmeade would say: 'Show me you're not one of them.'  And had Parkinson's not brought down the champ, Ali would have decked him yelling: 'how's that for proof, idiot!'

So what does a terrorist look like?  It depends on your definition of terrorism:
[a]cts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror in the general public, a group of persons or particular persons for political purposes are in any circumstance unjustifiable, whatever the considerations of a political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or any other nature that may be invoked to justify them.
Here is what I think a terrorist looks like:

...and what does a terrorist group look like: if you did not see that one coming!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Some people call me Maurice...

In the Oct 19th USA Today - the Nation's newspaper (free read in a hotel) - there was a big ol' full page add titled:
Well America what do you think now?
It was from some guy who calls himself “The Grizz” but goes by a less ominous name of  Maurice Taylor.  It seems that The Grizz ran for the Republican nomination for President back in 1996 garnering a substantial 1% of the vote in all the primaries he ran in.  I would not bring this up had it not been for the tone he set in his open letter to the American People.  Apparently he lost becoming the nominee and hence our President because no one liked him.
I know how all politicians want to be liked, but I don’t care. I just want to get the job done.
If I had to hazard a guess, its because you are really not the kind of guy the working man could like.  Which is odd because from what I can gather you came up from a blue collar start.  But alas, a lot of people forget what it was like to walk in the steel-toed boots of their past.

I get kind of peeved when these CEO types brag about how they create jobs.  As if there would be no jobs without the benevolence and financial outlay these fine men and woman exude.  So when they makes the statement "I have created jobs" I start to suspect they are probably taking credit for something that would have happened anyway.

Still, maybe he is a job creator - maybe he does care about making sure worker type folks have a "great paying" "manufacturing" job so they can support their families and contribute to society and share in the American dream just like the CEO of Titan International does.  Maybe he is everything to America as he paints himself to be.  Maybe...oh....wait...really?

On May 1, 1998, the 650 members of the United Steelworkers of America, Local 164 [w]here forced into an Unfair Labor Practice Strike.  During the negotiations preceding this strike, Titan International Inc. President and CEO, Morry Taylor, attempted to eliminate pension and medical benifits and illegally move jobs and equipment out of the plant.  He also forced employees to work excessive manditory overtime, sometimes working people as many as 26 days in a row without a day off.
Well sure, that's probably just made up stuff from the lame-stream liberal media that just has it out for the job producers just trying to make a go at it.  What?  Thats from where?  The June 27, 2001 Congressional Record?

Well sometimes a few eggs get cracked when tough negotiations need to be made (that's why they call him The Grizz and not Maurice).  After all - as he states - "I’m not some intellectual talking head who has never run anything."  What he does to create these jobs is to leverage "closed, bankrupt or money losing companies" and when they are "turned around" Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! It really is that easy to create jobs and according to our job producing CEO named Maurice, the plan is simple.  All you got to do is follow this Titan International business model for producing jobs:
More than 300 workers at Titan's Natchez, Mississippi facility went on strike in September 1998 after Titan fired the entire workforce in a fashion the NLRB has since alleged illegal. The firings followed a complex financial deal in which Titan and various interests associated with Titan CEO Morry Taylor and his family took a controlling interest in Condere Corporation, a bankrupt company which owned Fidelity Tire in Natchez. In September 1998, Titan bought Condere's assets, and then proceeded to fire the Natchez workers, who were represented by the USWA.
OK...OK, so he doesn't like Unions...I mean can you blame him?  The nerve of paying a guy $33.00 bucks and hour when you could get away with $21.00!  Pesky Unions, if a guy can't support his family on a pre-tax income of $43,000.00 a year he's doing something wrong.  Jiminy Cricket if money is that tight send the wife to work!

So what else does ol' Maurice think would make for a better America and would be good for the made in the USA blue-collar bunch.
  1. Well eliminate Government jobs for one.  Unemployment would help bring down the cost of government and would be in line with the 25% tax rate he thinks should be placed on corporations.
  2. Eliminate sick leave for Government Employees.  My god!  You know what that costs for an employee making $35K a year?  $134 bucks a day - or looking at it another way, that equates to 52,238 sick days worth of pay savings that could then be spent on something like - oh I don't know - maybe a run for the Republican Nominee in 1996! ($7,000,000.00 if you were wondering)
  3. Freeze all Pension Plans.  You know - that 401K is such a better deal (well it is for the public companies needing to sell shares).  And besides, a guy who has worked for 19 years under his current pension agreement would be more than happy to have things changed mid stream.  Especially if he is in his 50's.
Such brilliance!  I don't know where to start.  But ol Maurice did get one bit of observation right:  
There is a difference "between public companies like Wal-Mart, Coca-Cola, Ford, etc.  It is the private companies that create jobs. The public companies I have listed were all private at one time and run by an entrepreneur. They are all run today by professional managers who are really business politicians. Entrepreneurs are not smooth politicians; they focus on building their business. Professional managers look at building their business but also building their image."
So when you said at the very beginning of your "Well America what do you think now?" USA Today advertisement:
I am Chairman/CEO of Titan International, Inc. (NYSE: TWI) - [a public company].
Where you including yourself as one of those smooth business politicians?

So what do I think now?  You are nothing more than a narcissistic blow-hard interested in building wealth for yourself.  You don't give a shit about making jobs unless they pay a wage low enough where you can contend it is reasonable.  But I suspect what is in play here has more to do with ridding yourself of the name Maurice and replacing it with a big and scary sounding name like The Griz.  That's what will give you stature!  That's what you value - the perception that you are tough and able to provide that "entrepreneurial leadership" although you lack the same intellect as your peers.

I'm not going to take anything away from the fact that your holdings have performed well.  It's how you have done it that leaves a lot to be desired.  Alls fair in business and politics I hear and you have played it well.  Too bad you could not have tried to achieve the same outcome in a bit more sensitive way towards the men and woman who provide the product you sell.  All workers who are dependent upon job creators deserve consideration for a fair and livable wage, dignity, security, and a share in the wealth you and your other job creators feel so entitled to keep to yourselves.

So what do I think now?  Not much Maurice...not much.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

My son's are starting to become more aware of just how cruel some people who occupy space in this world can be.  They are also seeing that for every act of cruelness there is often an act by the exact opposite type of person.

The internet has done wonders in bringing to light the fact that there are socially responsible, kind, and considerate people who walk amongst us.  So on Facebook my oldest sends me a link the the video on YouTube of the Fort Worth City Councilman - Joel Burns - "reaching out to GLBT teens with a personal story and a message of hope."

If you think his message is a gay only thing, then you have missed the point.  Sure he can relate, and sure it addresses kids who may have been gay who committed suicide, but his plea was directed at the fact that no one - especially at the age of 13 - should not be offered the chance to see where life takes them.

Bullying for whatever reason is a terrible thing to be exposed to and endure.  Trust me I know first hand on this.  Lucky for me it stopped because I became bigger than the small-minded and stature grade school bullies.  I did not realize the power of size until I was an adult.  But I'm a gentle giant in personality, and a wussy when it comes fighting (it's a lack of self-efficacy in my fist-a-cuff abilities).

Now you couple that bullying with a kid who is starting to see himself differently than his peers, and is - through misguided and cruel adult comments - told his thinking is wrong, evil, a sin....and you can see how a gun or a rope or pills can loos like a pretty good option to stop the pain.

And this death will be for what reason?  Well the bully acts in a way to cover up shortcomings in their life.  They may be picked on at home, they may see this as a release for their angst, they may be troubled, and, in a lot of the "pick on the gay kid" situations, its because they themselves are struggling with thoughts and feelings that they have been told are bad - but they are having them anyway.

There was a great letter to the editor in the Oct 14 (or 13?) Austin American Statesman newspaper from an 87 year old WWII vet telling the story of his childhood friend who was gay but in the closet.  I need to get a copy of it from the actual paper since the stupid Statesman web site does not have it.  I'll write about it in another post.  The take-away message was that being gay did not stop the guy from achieving great things for himself and his country and that the letter writer - having known the man - could see this and how little importance the "gay" part of his being played in the wholeness of the actual man.  In other words, if you don't know any gay people you will never know how normal they really are.

Anyway, back to the video - or really back to some of the comments.  As you would expect, there are a lot of negative ones to the video.  My "favorite" is this one:
You kids best learn.  Human beings have a pecking order...get used to's called....Life!
Some humans love to attack as a wolves or wild dogs.  I do think this bullying now is being blown out of porportion. Geeks , fags & fat kids have been here forever.
All from a guy with that goes by the name of  "DontStutterbitch."

What more can be said.  The world is full of DontStutterbitchs - they lack the ability to show compassion and have a deep seated need to offend.  But the world is also filled with Joel Burns.  Our problem is that we don't have a deep seated need to offend and instead keep quiet letting the mind set of the bullies become the dominant model.

But DontStutterbitch is right, it is called life.  But it's a life made by those who control it.  We let people without compassion and with issues that require them to belittle or force their perverted ideology set the tone for the rest of us.  We let them be the Alpha males.  Not because they are genetically better in some evolutionary way, but because we don't choose to not stand up and fight back.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Get Motivated!...for a sales pitch.

In the paper there have been these big full page adds for something called a "Get Motivated! Business Seminar."

Now I am naturally cynical, and when I look at the list of live speakers, I am even more cynical...and skeptical.

My mom - who taught me a lot of things one could classify under 'wives tales" - also taught me some things that have turned out to be true.  From 'don't rob Peter to pay Paul' and 'If everyone was jumping off the Empire State building would you?', to the one about 'there is no such thing as a free lunch.'

When I look at the add it just does not add up.  There are eight big name speakers, including Laura Bush, Colin Powell, and Rudy Giuliani.  Now because I know there is no such thing as a free lunch, I know - without a doubt - that these eight speakers are not there because they want to "give you ground-breaking strategies to sharpen your business skills, ignite your motivation, accelerate your effectiveness and increase your income!" - but instead are there for a speaking fee.  A speaking fee paid by someone.

I have nothing against speaking for a fee - heck that's what I do - and I think that those that attend will get what they wanted from the eight.  The purpose of this post is to look at the "free lunch" aspect.

So for $1.95 a person - or $9.50 for the whole office! - you can sit for eight hours or so and listen to eight speakers who - on average - charge at least $25,000 per speaking engagement.  Rudy Giuliani alone is reported to fetch $100,000.00 for a talk.

Now if the attendance is around 18,000 on average at these events, and each person were to pay $1.95, how do you pay for eight speakers of this caliber on $35,100.00 worth of income?  This does not even pay for the venue and staff needed to put on an event of this size.

Lets look at just the speaker costs alone:  Assuming the average is $50k, 8 x 50,000 = $400,000.00 worth of revenue must be garnered just to pay for that one particular cost.  At 18,000 average participants, that means the cost per person is 400,000 / 18,000 = $22.22 each.

$22.22 - $1.95 = $20.27 extra revenue per person is needed to just cover - conservatively - the speakers.  Just like there is no such thing as a free lunch, there is no such thing as a $1.95 eight course meal.

What is strange is that there is very little information about what goes on - other than the marketing hype - at one of these seminars.  I found information that I assume is reputable journalism on the Indianapolis Star web site.  "Then came the pitch"
Six, two-day workshops coming to Columbus, with a stated value of $1,995. Kittell was offering them to attendees for $99. More of the same followed as the day wore on.
James Smith spoke 45 minutes about his real estate investment system. At the end, he offered three full days of wealth-building workshops in Columbus next month. He said they usually cost about $2,000, but seminar attendees who bring one family member need pay only $49.
Then, a 10-minute break to sign up.
Later came a pitch for a Stay Motivated Seminar in Columbus. Usually $99, but free to attendees.
Then a man named Stephen Pierce talked 30 minutes about how to make money online.  At the end of his speech came an offer for a three-day workshop and software at a stated valued of $11,226, but offered to seminar attendees for $29.
So if all you paid was a $1.95 and walked out of there with nothing more than a feeling of inspiration, you got your money's worth.  But, you need to know this, someone sitting next to you or in your general area paid money to cover you.  You can call them a sucker, a patsy, a can say they were inspired and jumped at the chance to better themselves, that they were risk takers, shrewd, can-doers...what ever you want to call them, they paid for your eight course dinner.

And maybe for those extra fees these folks ended up with something of value.  Cynical me looks at it this way.  If your real estate investment is so good why are you trying to get me to pay only $49.00 for it?

No, what this seminar is really all about  is nothing more than a way to find gullible people who are still willing to believe that they too can be successful if only they had the right information...which can be had for $29.00 or $49.00 bucks.  And what is really sad is that it is given the look of legitimacy by people we hold as reputable.  I mean, Laura Bush and Colin Powell?  How much more upstanding can you get?

But what do I know about the value obtained?  Rose Hunter, who sells houses for the Horizon Palm Realty Group in Spring Hill, says Giuliani is a hero to her.  "These days, her best business is foreclosures. Giuliani fought his way out of a tough Brooklyn upbringing. He survived prostate cancer."
"His message to me was, 'Take action. Just do it.' "
If it were that easy, Nike would have cured obesity by now.