Life is for the living; Happy New Year!

December 31, 2010

Life is for the living and the Lord helps those who help themselves. I think that might be my motto for the New Year and could well work for the whole nation.

A bout with cancer (that I still technically have), but a return to good health, and then the loss of my wife has taught me to appreciate the good things I may have (because I won’t have them forever) and to appreciate every day.

As a nation I think it’s about time we quit collectively wringing our hands and waiting for someone or something to save us.

There are a lot of people out of work with little to no hope of working again, although there are some signs of improvement too in that regard.

But as a nation, we need to collectively wake up and smell the coffee and realize that it is a new day and a new century and that we are not going to be able to go back to the comfort of yesterday.

Many of us are probably not going back to work where we did before. Many of us will have to re-invent ourselves. Been there, done that, years ago. I hope I don’t have to do it again, but who knows?

I have nothing against and really am quite supportive of the idea of government social programs. But we really can’t wait or expect the government to save us. Life would not be worth living if we had to depend upon being slaves to government handouts.

We really need to pay more attention to politics and demand that our politicians cut the absurd ideological arguments and partisan politics and empty talking points and get down to serious practical policy making.

And these costly, unproductive, destructive, and unjust wars need to come to an end. War is not the answer. The only time we need or have to fight a war is if we are directly attacked. And then we have to give it everything we’ve got.

Thank goodness the American public and politicians were not so out of tune, namby pamby, and scared to make a commitment back in World War II.

As a nation we need to get our pride and intestinal fortitude back.

The best thing we could do is throw out all existing politicians and start over again. We should also turn our backs on the money changers and quit being their slaves.

The power really is in the hands of the people. And that is not a revolutionary or anti-capitalist slogan — it is reality, if we could just realize it.

The Tea Party (such as it is) has flaws but it is a healthy idea in general concept and a good start.

In California we’ve actually brought back an old politician as our new governor, Jerry Brown. But from what I hear he is promising to take the brave step of making drastic across-the-board cuts in the budget to help fight the deficit, and I imagine somewhere along the line higher taxes are in the offing. I think people might eventually be supportive of some tax hikes if they thought money was being spent prudently and we were getting something for our hard-earned dollars.

A lot of people are off work as I close this post, either because they are starting the New Year’s holiday early or because they do not have a job. I’m going to start up my truck and head back out on the road, but I’m feeling pretty good about life and the New Year!

HAPPY NEW YEAR 2011!

 


Merry Christmas feelings inspired out in the desert…

December 25, 2010

BEHOLD! I BRING YOU GOOD TIDINGS!

It’s Christmas Eve Day as I write this. I’m working out on the long line as a truck driver but hope to be home by tonight or early Christmas morning.

But all is well, even though certainly not everything has gone my way this past year. I lost my wife. But some power, many would say the power of the Lord, has allowed me to go on and not only fend off the cancer that has invaded my body but to deal with the grief of losing my wife, who was my soul mate and closest of closest friends.

As I drove through the Arizona desert last night I viewed the beautiful sunset. It’s hard to get radio reception out there, but quite by accident I got a bible story and somehow the setting seemed appropriate and inspiring.

I did not catch all of it and it was not the traditional Birth of Jesus story, but it was about a prophet.

In those ancient times the Jewish people, often called God’s chosen people, were looking for a savior and better times ahead.

And maybe a lot of us are looking for that today.

I’m no religious scholar or preacher and I am, truth be told, not a church goer. But I suspect there is redemption and better times ahead.

And I suspect that, outside influences and powers notwithstanding, all that is available now within ourselves.

I think the story or someone commenting on it said something to the effect that the chosen people had failed to heed the prophesies and warnings and suffered greatly for it.

This is not something meant to promote Christianity or any other formal religion. I just think that although most of us need someone or something to show us the way, we will never get there without our own initiative and realization that salvation and happiness is within ourselves.

Those are the good tidings I have brought you, so rejoice.

P.s.

As I walked out of the shipping office I passed two men in turbans and bid them a Merry Christmas. Actually, wise guy that I am sometimes, I asked them if they knew the way to Bethlehem. Of course they seemed a bit confused. They are of the Sikh (seek) religion. But I explained I was only joking, but I just thought their garb seemed historical (they looked as though they could have been two of the three Wise Men). One of them smiled and wished me a happy holiday.


Victory for the middle of the road and/ or compromise? And America has nearly lost its soul in the name of getting something for nothing

December 23, 2010

I was going to post this a couple of days ago, but things intervened, so I want to add that it seems that President Obama has scored some impressive legislative victories in the past week, with his one lament being that he could not get the so-called Dream Act through, which would have allowed a path to citizenship for children of illegal aliens already in the school system and who grew up and even found themselves in college only to discover their status in this country is illegal.

No matter what you think of the legislation Obama has pushed through, it is impressive that he, partly through circumstances, to include probably the fact voters are mad at both parties for their stagnation, has seemed to show himself the comeback kid — isn’t that what they used to call Clinton?

As far as the Dream Act, maybe it should be handled on a case-by-case basis with the end result being that most are able to stay in this nation. It seems ludicrous that someone can be allowed to grow up here and be willing to provide so much in the way of work and education or visa versa and then be told to leave. Creating loopholes in immigration laws does create problems, though, so that is why I say maybe case by case (not really a good solution either).

The message from the media suddenly seems to be that the economy is improving. That’s what I seem to be hearing, seemingly all of the sudden out of nowhere. If that is really the case, I suspect Obama might stand a far better chance in 2012.

The bipartisanship it has taken to get Obama’s victories might demonstrate that the voters in the recent election were not calling so much for change from left to right as they were for more middle of the roadmanship, so to speak — I don’t really know.

But really that is supposed to be how the two-party system works — both fight like dogs to get their way and in the end a compromise is reached that has some good for all concerned.

But now back to my original post:

It’s been written about and demonstrated with evidence time and again, but who is doing anything about the fact that what is killing the United States economy (signs of recovery aside) is the fact that too much effort is being put into making money for producing nothing?

The U. S. long ago gave up its lead in manufacturing real things people need in favor of something called services, and, worse yet, fancy paper trading games that produce artificial profits while producing nothing, no value whatsoever, except to perhaps some of the original manipulators or certain others along the way. In my opinion, and I’ll bet in the opinion in many others by now, the whole Wall Street-style investing thing is no more than a Bernie Madoff type Ponzi scheme. That is not to say that there are not honest and hardworking folks in the investment business, but they are at the mercy, just like the rest of us, of the boys (and girls) at the top, the cynical manipulators.

And the general public got into this with their 401Ks (so they did not want to criticize Wall Street or kill the goose that was laying the golden eggs) and with many getting into houses they could not really afford with no money down and then in some cases flipping them and buying more — and then the bubble burst and many were left holding the deflated bag.

And maybe some insight into all of this may come in this article I ran across in the New York Times (online) or in the references it gives: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/20/business/media/20carr.html?src=dayp

We’ve also given up, for the most part, long ago now, the understood or implied contract between employer and employee in which workers could more or less safely assume that in return for hard work and dedication to a company that the worker would be paid relatively well and have good benefits for the full length of his or her working career and into retirement (a generalization, I know, but this did exist). It was a system that worked well for improving the standard of living across the levels of society, creating a strong middle class (along with the ability of people to move into that middle class), and created overall stability in society.

But now I read that some 80 percent of all new jobs created are for temporary workers. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/20/business/economy/20temp.html

Companies are skittish about hiring people full time because of the added costs of providing benefits and the advantage of letting someone go at a whim.

And ,indeed, what with the tenuous and anemic condition of the economy (since 2008) one can hardly blame companies for being cautious.

But it’s ironic that people rail against unemployment benefits and government social programs when the fact is that if the present trend continues more and more of the workforce will seemingly have to depend upon the government to tide them over between their temporary jobs. And they will need the government’s help for health care and other services they will not be able to afford on their own.

The emphasis in Washington should be on moving toward re-invigorating the nation’s production of real goods and even real services, as opposed to depending upon the magic of trading phony paper.

President Obama reneged on his pledge to get tough with Wall Street in return for pulling its chestnuts out of the fire in the great economic collapse. The money is flowing freely again in the investment banks and investment houses and they just can’t pay each other enough bonuses — and this as the nation’s unemployment continues at a high rate, people are losing their homes, taxes are being cut as the deficit soars and as the nation has to borrow more and more from China and other nations who still primarily make their living off of producing real things.

As the result of the desire to get something for nothing, America has lost, or nearly lost, its soul. It could get it back, though, I think.


Gays can serve openly in the military — seems like the acts not the idea should have been illegal…

December 19, 2010

With the news that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell has been repealed and that gays or homosexuals as I prefer to call them (I hate when a perfectly good word, used frequently in headlines and literature into the 1960s to mean happy, but now meaning homosexual, is ruined ), I’m wondering why anyone was ever kicked out of the military for being “gay”.

I can understand being kicked out for performing homosexual acts — especially while on duty — or for somehow using sexuality in a harassing or harmful or threatening way, but I cannot understand being kicked out simply because one has a certain sexual preference.

What I am trying to say is that a kind of obvious version of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell should have been in place all along. In other words, no one could be kicked out or blackmailed (because he or she would be subject to being kicked out) for having a certain sexual preference, but could be kicked out for overt acts that would hurt others and be harmful to the military in general. inappropriate sexual behavior is what should have been outlawed all along.

But all that is water under the bridge.

Apparently there are some procedural matters to be cleared first, but as far as anyone knows, within weeks or a few months, gays will be able to not only serve in the military but not be forced to lie about or otherwise withhold the fact that they are gay or homosexual, if you will.

Polling shows a substantial majority of the public (77 percent) sees no problem in this. Society evolves, for good or bad, as we all know. What was not accepted yesterday is accepted today.

John McCain thinks letting gays serve openly in the military is a bad idea. But I have the impression he is worried because he takes pride in the macho image of the military he knew and that he likes to think still exists. I don’t mean to disparage machoness. I think it may survive in certain units and that may work well for them. But the fact is that society has evolved and women, who by definition are not macho, do more of a variety of jobs and closer to combat and sometimes in combat and anyway these modern wars do not seem to have front lines or the front line is everywhere at once. So anyway, the worry that soldiers might be too effeminate, either because they are females or because they are gay (and of course you can be both (as in lesbian or even manly but female — and geesh this gets confusing) no longer seems a reason for concern or relevant to the issue of military preparedness or effectiveness or unit cohesion.

But I will say this, a photo that shocked and even kind of revolted me was one I saw in a news magazine (remember those?) some years ago showing two male and gay sailors in their traditional sailor outfits, standing one behind the other with one with his arms around the other in some kind of pose that looked like husband and wife.

McCain was in the Navy. Yeah, I can see how you might feel Mr. McCain.

P.s.

There is always the question of the military’s allowable reach into the private lives of its members and what constitutes duty and off duty, I think. My experience with the military, though, is that it’s members do not have the exact same rights as do civilians, being as how its members are under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. And to some extent, those in the military are always on duty.

P.s. P.s.

I did not mean to suggest in this post that allowing gays or homosexuals to serve openly in the military is either a good thing or a bad thing. But actually it is or was kind of inevitable with society’s changed attitude and knowledge toward homosexuality. Most reasonably intelligent people see the obvious evidence that people are born homosexual and accept that fact no matter what their personal feelings or comfort zone with homosexuality might be.


Inheritance tax unfair; raise taxes and cut spending, but maybe starve the beast before raising taxes…

December 17, 2010

Maybe I should do more research on this one, but it seems to me that even though you have to be a millionaire or billionaire to worry directly about estate taxes or be the potential heir of one, the whole thing seems unfair.

A significant portion of the population thinks everyone is subject to the estate tax or inheritance tax or “death tax” as it is often called by its political adversaries. And that is not true, the first $3.5 million is exempt, and if the Obama compromise goes through it will be $5 million (federal tax — some states have estate taxes as well).

But also, a lot of people do not stop to realize, I’m guessing, that farms and family businesses that would seem modest compared to major corporations or businesses can be subject to an estate tax.

I don’t know why this is, lack of planning or what, but I often read that heirs often have to sell off family businesses or farms or liquidate them to pay the estate tax. That can be a tragedy for a family — or maybe a blessing sometimes — and a tragedy for employees who suddenly have no job. I ought to know, the last newspaper job I had I lost because the heir to the chain that owned it had to sell off the estate when the owner and founder died (that is a shorthand version of what happened, but I believe it is essentially accurate).

I buy the argument that taxes were already paid on this money once, usually in the form of income tax before benefactor died.

Of course whoever receives the money now has income, and maybe that should be subject to tax, so we are back to square one.

But you see, just like I blogged recently, maybe the income tax needs to be eliminated.

Government has to have a revenue stream to function, though. So, as I have blogged and as so many have suggested, why not a national sales tax? I understand in Europe the value added tax is used in which taxes are levied on each step of production of a product —  hence a tax on the value added.

And if we are to maintain the income tax, which it seems we are wont to do, then why not a simple flat tax with few to no deductions?

The United States is so deeply mired in debt is seems inconceivable that it could ever dig itself out of the hole. There is always the argument on whether to raise taxes or cut spending.

I have heard some experts suggest we need to do both at the same time. And really that seems logical to me, but I would say we have to begin my either cutting taxes or at least not raising them.

The conservative movement has long sought to get rid of social programs it does not like by voting against taxes — it’s called “starve the beast”. If they can eliminate the revenue they don’t have to come right out and say they don’t want to help the less fortunate.

But in order to eliminate the debt it would seem spending has to be sharply curtailed. But when taxes are raised there is too much incentive to spend the money. When you get more income it’s more fun to go out and spend it than pay off a debt.

Both liberals and conservatives live under some illusion that somehow the economy will come roaring back and we will magically solve the debt problem without having to raise taxes or cut spending. Actually, they may not believe this in their hearts but it plays well to the political base.

It seems to me that the tax system and codes need to be greatly simplified, so much so that everyone is forced to pay his or her fair share rather than the clever and/or  the rich being able to use legal (and illegal) tax dodges.

It may well be that taxes will have to be raised for everyone eventually, but a little starve the beast might be in order and then we can figure out what is just so important that it must cause our taxes to be raised.

P.s.

In no way should the truly needy suffer in all of this, but a problem in our social programs is that oversight in the way of in-home social workers has been all but eliminated in the name of saving money (it does not) and in the name of political correctness in which you cannot tell people who live off the sweat of others and multiply like rabbits how to live — the truly needy suffer as the result. 


So, can you and should you be forced to buy health insurance? It’s an important question for the Supreme Court

December 13, 2010

Now this is interesting.  A federal judge in Virginia has ruled — I just heard, well earlier today  — that the federal mandate to buy health insurance (that does not go into effect until 2014) is unconstitutional. While the government can use the commerce clause to regulate interstate commerce it cannot force someone to buy insurance, he held. Now this is just one judge, one court, and other federal judges have held otherwise,  I understand, and this matter will likely reach the Supreme Court, I also understand.

While I totally see the rationale of forcing people to buy insurance, there does seem something troubling about the government being able to force one to deal with a private entity. At least with mandated car insurance you could choose not to drive a car. But you can hardly choose what goes wrong with your body.

I recently blogged about the mandate to buy insurance under President Obama’s new health care law. I made the analogy with car insurance. It’s only fair that you be required to buy auto insurance when everyone else who drives is subjected to the risk and those who are responsible pay their share for insurance — so maybe it ought to be that way with health insurance. Maybe if you opt out of health insurance you ought to be made to sign a statement or waiver, as it were, to the effect you will demand no government care at taxpayer’s expense — ever, and that the government is not required to provide it for you. I don’t really think all that is practical or moral, though.

So, this notion of the government being able to force citizens to deal with a private company (buying health insurance) is certainly destined to eventually reach the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, there is no immediate effect both because the provision was not in effect yet and because the judge declined to issue any kind of injunction along with his ruling, as I understand it.

At the risk of being tiresome, I say again, the problem is providing health care to those who have no resources themselves and cannot otherwise obtain it. That, I think is a moral imperative. Personally I would not be against some type of national health care system, commonly referred to as “socialized medicine”  (well actually that label is pase’, so commonly called “socialism”). But our own unique American system, really not a  system, but a hodgepodge of public and private and employer-based insurance, is entrenched. So why could we not simply live up to our responsibility to the less fortunate (which in this economy could be nearly anyone of us) and move on?


When outlaws become heroes watch out — the U.S. could go the way of Mexico

December 13, 2010

Power is ever-present in society and when it sees a vacuum it fills it.

Take the demonstrations that have just occurred in Morelia, Mexico in support of a drug cartel kingpin reportedly killed in a shootout with government forces. While the drug wars have killed and injured thousands over the past several years, including rivals in the drug gangs, police and soldiers, government officials , and innocent citizens, some of the people, apparently, are in sympathy with the outlaws. http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/lt_drug_war_mexico

(Kind of a modern-day version of the Bonnie and Clyde fable, but much more threatening.)

In one way this seems crazy or topsy-turvy, but when one realizes that society seeks order, some type of order, and that people seek support and services, and when the existing elite and the government fail to offer it, some other source of power will take over, maybe there is some logic here.

(Apparently, the drug gang in question had been giving out free bibles and offering some help to locals in some crazy crime-ridden version of Christianity.)

This may be what is happening in Mexico, that is the outlaws have supplanted the role of the government. I do not pretend to know.

While my sympathy remains with law-abiding citizens down there who only want to live out their lives in peace, I think we have to let them down there figure out how to do that.

But when the troubles spill over the border, and they have to a degree, at least, then it becomes our problem up here in North America, the United States of America, to be exact.

We up here cannot escape the fact that there is a major illegal drug market on our side of the border — a vast demand, and that there is also a large illegal weapons or gun-running industry in the U.S. which supplies the cartels south of the border. We have to do what we can to dampen the demand and to stop the gun running.

I think the so-called War on Drugs, though, is for the most part a boondoggle that eats up a lot of tax money that could be better used elsewhere. What probably is needed more are programs that go more to the soul of society and counteract the feeling of hopelessness that seems to pervade much of our population. I’m not sure how you do that, but the fact that much of society is left idle with the at least perceived notion that there is little opportunity for a better life does not help. And the fact that our whole culture nowadays seems to glorify nothingness and shallowness and the quick buck, and sex for the sake of sex without any thought to humanity, does not help either. A lot of what we need to change on our side of the border does not involve money or the changing of hands of money, it’s more along the lines of attitude adjustment.

We are losing or have lost for the most part, the leadership and the elite in society who are moral and who are respected and looked up to.

That’s why we see the likes of the seemingly shallow and even ignorant Sarah Palin talked about now seriously as a candidate for president. It’s not that I think that Mrs. Palin is a bad human being — I don’t know about that. But c’mon can anyone with a straight face say that she has ever demonstrated having any substance or any real knowledge of world or even national affairs beyond cheap sound bites? Would you want her to have her hand on the nuclear trigger? Would you want to see some as yet unknown dark force take advantage of her ignorance and secretly run the country (such as Cheney to George W., that was bad enough).

And I am only using Palin as an example. Much of the reason that the seamier side of the Tea Party has had so much success is that there is a power vacuum because the elite in the nation have lost much of the trust of the vast majority or at least of a whole lot of the public.

Maybe all of what I have just written is a poor analogy, but I will go on with it, nonetheless. I see some connection.

At the least we risk being led by ill-prepared politicians, at the worst we risk being led by outlaws.

Let’s don’t go the way of Mexico!