Friday, May 28, 2010

Friday Digest

As it now stands, if Congress does not act, doctors who treat Medicare patients face a 21 percent rollback in reimbursement rates beginning American Medical Association poll of its members showed that if the planned cuts go into effect, two-thirds of doctors now treating Medicare patients will limit their Medicare cases, if not quit altogether. This will also affect military -- both active duty and retired -- because their Tricare insurance is tied to Medicare. Happy Memorial Day.

Democrats continually weak on national security
Why would they refuse to send 6,000 national guard troops to the border with Mexico? Excerpt: Senate Democrats managed Thursday to block deployment of 6,000 National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border, but the proposal still garnered a majority of senators, showing widespread support for a border-security-first strategy and underscoring why President Obama is having difficulty trying to win an immigration-legalization bill.

How's that stimulus bill working out?
The economic rebound last quarter turned out to be slower than first thought, one of the reasons unemployment is likely to stay high this year. The only thing the stimulus is stimulating is the growth in government. Democrats have had control of the Congress for three years, but as usual, liberal programs do not work.

Fannie and Freddie still broken. But of course...
The oil spill in the Gulf isn't the only calamity the administration is ignoring. As a result of the BP accident, anywhere from $400,000 to $7 million worth of crude oil is leaking into the ocean each day, threatening widespread environmental damage. A much larger leak - $232 million per day - has come from taxpayer vaults since Sept. 7, 2008, when mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac came seeking the first billion-dollar patch for their fiscal mismanagement. And there's no plug in sight for that gusher.

Obama struggling to show he's in control of oil spill
A defensive President Obama sought Thursday to quell doubts about his handling of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, insisting that his administration has been "in charge" from the moment it began and bristling that critics who accuse it of being sluggish to react "don't know the facts." But at times during a 63-minute news conference in the East Room of the White House, the president seemed to undercut his own argument. He enumerated a litany of fumbles and lapses...(and he wants the government to run our health care system?)

And finally, but not least by a long shot:

The BIG Lie
"The Democratic Congress and the Obama administration share a strong commitment to fiscal discipline and common sense in our budget, and we must continue to do everything in our power to boost our economic recovery, rein in the deficits we inherited, and remain responsible stewards of the public purse. After President Bush and Republicans in Congress turned record surpluses into record deficits and nearly doubled the national debt, Democrats are returning our nation to a course of fiscal responsibility." --House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) on her own party's quadrupling of even the worst Bush deficit

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Politics: Big Money, Big Business

Let's follow the money, shall we. Here's one example. The chart below shows how much the health industry spent lobbying politicians, according to, which tracks contributions to, and spending by, political candidates.

So how much money did Barry get in his run for the presidency in 2008 from the health industry? How's $19.5 million sound? McClain received only $7 million or so. Guess they were hedging their bets. So now the health industry will get another 35 million customers, because they will now be forced, under the threat of fines and prison, to buy insurance.

And the banks amd financial sector gave Obama nearly $40 million 2008. He talks a tough game in public, but what's going on behind closed doors? And how's that financial reform going? I've heard it's another boondoggle that will hurt the small guy on main street. There's probably some good things in it, but you got to know with more than 1,000 pages, there's gonna be some weird stuff.

And it not just Obama and the democrats. Republicans also receive hundreds of millions. Over the last 20  years, the split has been about 45/55, dems/repubs.

Time to get this kind of money out of politics. Support organizations that are trying to reform this, both liberal and conservative. This is a concern of all Americans, not just one party.

Here's a few to get started with:

If you have any good sources, let me know and I'll update the list.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The United States of America: on the road to bankruptcy.

When President Obama requested $63 billion for Iraq and Afghanisan, Congress inflated the bill to $300 billion for other pet projects, according to

Anyone still want to talk about those terrible deficits under President Bush?

Obama and his liberal Congress is racking up more debt in two years than the previous 10.

But don't worry. Obama keeps promising that his unconstitutional Health Care Plan will cut $100 billion from the deficit over 10 years.

Does he think the American people are stupid? He must, along with Pelosi and Reid.

Besides groveling to world leaders, this man and his friends will bankrupt this country.

Make sure you vote these people out in November of 2010 and 2012.

How's that change working for you now? The fact that as private sector wages drop, federal benefits are going up. This is the situation that created riots in Greece. USA Today reports on this in Private pay shrinks to historic lows as gov't payouts rise. We're becoming a welfare state, and that's not what this country is about.

On nearly every front in the real economy -- from jobs to consumer spending to foreclosures -- we've made virtually no progress at all. While Washington and the media have been consumed with the titanic debate over this reform bill [financial reform], talk of the actual suffering by actual people in the actual economy is virtually a taboo subject, at least judging by how rarely it makes the front pages or leads the TV news.
That's from Arianne Huffington. Yes, the Arianne of HuffPost. Even the liberals -- well, some of them -- are grasping the obvious.

The chart above only shows deficits through 2011. This view shows the projected deficits through 2019.

A short note to FamGuy in Colorado: Don't even bother to tell me that this problem was created by Bush and Obama is just fixing it. Time to get a grip on reality as it exists NOW. This is not fixing anything.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

What if you controlled the federal budget?

The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget has an interesting "game" at their web site which allows you to make decisions on how to control our growing deficit. The goal is to reduce the federal deficit to 60% of GDP by 2018, which according to the Committee is sustainable through 2030.

What did I do? Here are my actions:
  • Limit Itemized Deductions for High-Earners
  • Eliminate the Life Insurance Tax Benefits
  • Eliminate Subsidies for Biofuels
  • Cut the Earned Income Tax Credit
  • Replace Employer Health Care Exclusion with a Flat Credit
  • Sell certain government assets
  • Increase Gas Tax by 10 cents
  • Impose surtax on Income over $1 million
  • Raise Social Security Cap to cover 90% of earnings
  • Reduce Corporate Tax Rate from 35 to 30 percent
  • Eliminate certain outdated programs
  • Cut Federal workforce by 5 percent
  • Reduce farm subsidies
  • Cut earmarks in half
  • Reduce health care insurance subsidies by 20 percent
  • Increase cost-sharing for Medicare
  • Raise Medicare premiums to 35% of costs
  • Enact medical malpractice reform
  • Gradually reduce scheduled Social Security benefits (30% by 2080)
  • Use an alternative measure of COLA
  • Increase years to calculate benefits for Social Security
  • Cancel TARP and rescind unused Stimulus Funds
  • Gradually reduce food stamp benefits to 2008 levels
  • Freeze average unemployment benefits to 2009 levels
  • Cut foreign aid by half
  • Reduce troop levels in Iraq and Afghanistan to 30,000 by 2013
  • Reduce lower rate tax cuts by half and let upper-income tax cuts expire
  • Grow regular discretionary spending with inflation
According to the "game," I got the deficit to 58% percent and saved about $4 trillion through 2018.

I learned about this from Ross Douthat at the NY Times. Here are his choices. He also has some pretty reasonable thoughts on the budget here.

You can try it here.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The "War" on Drugs

More and more Americans are coming to the realization that the criminalization of most drugs -- especially marijuana -- is counterprodutive. The following articles are food for thought (and biased toward my opinion that marijuana should be legalized, or at the minimum de-criminalized.) If you are of the opinion that these view are incorrect, you may want to read these articles anyway to consider a different point of view.

A Brief History on the War on Drugs
It's a war without a clear enemy. Anything waged against a shapeless, intangible noun can never truly be won — President Clinton's drug czar Gen. Barry McCaffrey said as much in 1996. And yet, within the past 40 years, the U.S. government has spent over $2.5 trillion dollars fighting the War on Drugs. Despite the ad campaigns, increased incarceration rates and a crackdown on smuggling, the number of illicit drug users in America has risen over the years and now sits at 19.9 million Americans.

The "New" Drug Policy Spin
Hey, good news! We've got a new National Drug Control Strategy!  Yup, this "Blueprint for reducing illicit drug use and its harmful consequences in America," as our president described it, was just announced by Barack Obama and drug czar Gil Kerlikowske. So we can all breathe easier now. America is sure to make major strides in ridding our nation of this terrible scourge, right? Not so fast.

Drug Dealers Nightmare: Legal Pot
Holding dealers accountable sounds good – but the DEA’s actions are pointless. The government should acknowledge that it was criminalizing drugs that created the dealers in the first place.

Fresh Thinking on the War on Drugs
...Or was it a matter of more countries realising that, as drug reform advocate Ethan Nadelmann puts it, “looking to the United States as a role model for drug control is like looking to apartheid-era South Africa for how to deal with race.”

War on Drugs program a colossal failure
The United States has spent over $1 trillion in taxpayer money in support of Richard Nixon’s War on Drugs program over the past 4 decades only to see drug use increase and the personal safety return on every dollar spent on the initiative dwindle to virtually nothing.

The War on Drugs Is a Failure
The war on drugs has failed. And it's high time to replace an ineffective strategy with more humane and efficient drug policies. This is the central message of the report by the Latin American Commission on Drugs and Democracy we presented to the public recently in Rio de Janeiro.

The War on Drugs is Lost
Things being as they are, and people as they are, there is no way to prevent somebody, somewhere, from concluding that ``NATIONAL REVIEW favors drugs.'' We don't; we deplore their use; we urge the stiffest feasible sentences against anyone convicted of selling a drug to a minor. But that said, it is our judgment that the war on drugs has failed, that it is diverting intelligent energy away from how to deal with the problem of addiction, that it is wasting our resources, and that it is encouraging civil, judicial, and penal procedures associated with police states. We all agree on movement toward legalization, even though we may differ on just how far.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Rand Paul and his "extreme" views on race

According to Stephanie Condon at CBS news, Rand Paul, a Tea-Party supported libertarian who won the GOP Senate nomination for Kentucky,  has some pretty extreme views about race.

She quotes Rand Paul as saying this in an NPR interview:
"What I've always said is that I'm opposed to institutional racism, and I would've, had I've been alive at the time, I think, had the courage to march with Martin Luther King to overturn institutional racism, and I see no place in our society for institutional racism," Paul said.
But to Condon it gets worse. She writes "However, he added":
"I think a lot of things could be handled locally. For example, I think that we should try to do everything we can to allow for people with disabilities and handicaps. You know, we do it in our office with wheelchair ramps and things like that. I think if you have a two-story office and you hire someone who's handicapped, it might be reasonable to let him have an office on the first floor rather than the government saying you have to have a $100,000 elevator. And I think when you get to the solutions like that, the more local the better, and the more common sense the decisions are, rather than having a federal government make those decisions."
So supporting local initiatives as opposed to Federal mandates is now an extreme view. I guess in the liberal mindset, it is.

It gets better. I couldn't make this stuff up:
Paul's views on the issue first came under scrutiny last month during an interview with the Louisville Courier-Journal.

"I like the Civil Rights Act in the sense that it ended discrimination in all public domains, and I'm all in favor of that," he said. "I don't like the idea of teling [sic] private business owners -- I abhor racism... I do believe in private ownership."

The Courier-Journal in an editorial said that Paul's remarks were "repulsive" and declared that it could not endorse either Republican in the Senate primary.

Paul's primary opponent, Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson, attacked Paul's extreme views during the primary campaign, though that clearly did not deter enough voters from supporting Paul. Now that Paul is in a broader campaign, his Democratic opponent, Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway, is using the same strategy.

"These are not the views of mainstream Kentuckians," Conway said about Paul's beliefs in an interview with Talking Points Memo.
This is all well and fine, I guess, because she is quoting others, except for the reference to extreme, which is her own opinion inserted into a news story. She used the same term in her lead, which makes it hard to view this as an objective story. She should have stated that Paul's opponent used the term.
Now that the Tea Party-backed Rand Paul has the GOP nomination for Kentucky's open Senate seat, the media and his Democratic opponent are pouncing on his extreme libertarian views -- particularly with respect to his position on racism in private businesses and whether he would have supported the 1964 Civil Rights Act. [emphasis mine] 
This would have you believe that Paul would not have supported the Civil Rights Act and would not be against racist practices in private businesses, and while not true, Paul has a little trouble articulating his philosophy.

I could understand some neophyte reporter writing a weak report, but to have it clear her editors is beyond me. And for the Louisville Courier-Journal to label Paul's comments as "repulsive" is repulsive to me, but at least they did it in an editorial. But it seems nowadays if you disagree with the "establishment liberal religion" you are racist somehow. Not sure I understand this, but I get tired of hearing it. 
So, someone tell me how this CBS news article is an unbiased report. From my point of view, this is so biased that it makes the people over at Fox news look like amateurs.

For another look at Paul and racism in a more balanced way, see this article at Outside the Beltway.

Note: Condon's story has received several updates since I wrote this, but she has not changed her lead or the tone of the story.

As of 3:30 pm CDT, there were about 220 comments posted on this story. Obviously, CBS visitors are mostly liberals. It's hard to read such hate-filled, vile attacks they make on their political opponents. These people don't debate the issues, they just make personal attacks. After the second reference to Nazism, I quite reading...

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Texas textbooks: Much ado about nothing

The controversy surrounding the new proposed standards of the Texas State Board of Education has become, once again, a fight for the truth. Those pundits who have made nonfactual claims about this proposed curriculum standard obviously haven't read the document, in any of its various renditions.

For example, David Dayne of FireDogLake claims that Thomas Jefferson has been excluded from the standard! Guess he forgot to actually read the standard, which is available at the Texas Board of Education web site.

This lie was also posted on a "news" item on the HuffPost in March, in which "ultraconservatives" were blamed for the changes. was cited as the source. How quickly lies spread in the age of the Internet. Doesn't anyone read documents and laws now? I guess if AG Eric Holder can condemn a law before he's actually read it, then why not the little people too. What's harmful is that thousands of readers actually believed the post, based on their comments, which are astounding on their own.

In reality, Thomas Jefferson is mentioned more predominately in the new standards. In addition, I noticed that the word "identify" was in many cases replaced with "evaluate" at the High School level. Rather than having students regurgitate facts, they will be required to understand events.

And of course, those brilliant legislators in Sacramento are at it again. Remember, these are the same idiots folks who have bankrupted California. According to
The State of California bill SB 1451 introduced by Senator Leland YeeLeland Yee, D-San Francisco states that the California Board of Education would be required to conduct school textbook reviews for content that reflects Texas curriculum changes as “a sharp departure from widely accepted historical teachings” and “a threat to the apolitical nature of public school governance and academic content standards in California.”
What rubbish, but what do you expect from the wingnuts on the left? I'll bet they have not read the proposed standards either. Oh, and by the way, which state in the Union is best for business (which means jobs) and which is the worse? See here, according to Chief Executive Magazine. According to this magazine, 70 percent of all new jobs created in the U.S. since 2008 have been in -- wait for it -- Texas. But I digress once again. Back to the textbook crisis.

Robert C. Koons, University of Texas professor, makes the case for the new standards in a post from the Austin
Inclusion of neglected founders, including John Jay, Charles Carroll, John Peter Muhlenberg, John Witherspoon and John Trumbull, representing the religious diversity of early America.

Inclusion of the fine arts and culture and the contributions of scientists and inventors.

Emphasis on our common-law tradition, epitomized by the Commentaries of William Blackstone, the most commonly used textbook in our country for more than a century (used by everyone from Hamilton to Lincoln).

The opposition is relying on the Big Lie. This cynical effort will fail to influence the vast majority of Texans for one simple reason: the Internet. Texans can go to the Texas Education Agency website and read the new standards for themselves.

Opponents claim that the new standards neglect the contributions of women and ethnic minorities. The opposite is true: in every subject and at every level, the new standards increase their prominence. Just a few examples of the names added include Crispus Attucks, Jose Bernardo Guillermo de Lara, Wentworth Cheswell, Bernardo de Galvez, Juan de Onate, W.E.B. DuBois, Carmen Lomas Garza, Henry B. Gonzalez, Raul A. Gonzalez, Maria Mitchell, Ellen Ochoa, Jose Antonio Navarro, Irma Rangel, Juan Seguin, Phillis Wheatley, Lulu Belle White, Diane Gonzales Bertrand, Bessie Coleman, Tomie de Paola, Marcus Garvey, Lydia Mendoza, Kadir Nelson, Danny Olivas and Raymond Telles.
It's obvious that Professor Koons has read the new proposed standards, as I have.

The bottom line is: You can't believe everything you read on the Internet, even from supposedly "trusted" sources.

And yet, there will be people protesting in Austin this week over something that isn't true.

Linda Chaves adds some clarity to the whole education debate in a recent piece entitled American History, Not Ethnic Studies.

White House Health Czar: Must be on drugs

Several sources, including the Department of Health and Human Services in its report, have said that the Health Care Reform bill will increase premiums, and increase taxes. But Nancy-Anne Deparle again states that the bill will reduce insurance premiums, reduce taxes, and amazingly reduce the deficit by $100 billion over the next 10 years (that's $10 billion a year). Wow! Projected deficits may reach $10 TRILLION, in addition to the current debt. Do the math. This is insignificant.

Does the current administration really think we're stupid?

Here you go, more propaganda from the White House:

To quote the Health and Human Services report: "...the provisions in support of expanding health insurance coverage (including Medicaid eligibility changes and additional CHIP funding) are estimated to cost $828 billion through fiscal year 2019)."

Other opeds commenting on the growing power of the federal goverment:

Mrs. Obama and Fat Government, by Mona Charon
Fifteen Things to Despise about Government Regulation
Enough Money, by Thomas Sowell

Friday, May 14, 2010

We need more politicians like Christie, not Holder

Gov Christie calls S-L columnist thin-skinned for inquiring about his 'confrontational tone'

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Controlling the Federal Reserve

I always thought Congress had oversight over the Federal Reserve System. But I guess I was wrong. A bill has passed the House that will allow an audit of the Fed's activities. The Senate introduced weaker version that is supported by Obama and the Fed.

I'm no big fan of Congress right now, but does no one have oversight over the people who control our money, other than Congress approving appointments and hearing the Fed's own report?

Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) is pushing for the stronger House version.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The death of the welfare state

With the pending collapse of the Greek economy, with other EU states to follow, it's only time before the U.S. experiences the same difficulties, especially with the Obama-Pelosi-Reid monstrous deficits. The writing is on the wall, so to speak, but don't take my word for it.

The welfare state's death spiral
Paul Samuelson: What we're seeing in Greece is the death spiral of the welfare state. This isn't Greece's problem alone, and that's why its crisis has rattled global stock markets and threatens economic recovery. Virtually every advanced nation, including the United States, faces the same prospect. Aging populations have been promised huge health and retirement benefits, which countries haven't fully covered with taxes. The reckoning has arrived in Greece, but it awaits most wealthy societies.

Athens or Washington, It's the Size of Government
Mona Charen: This is more than a financial crisis. This is a national meltdown. And while facile comparisons to the U.S. must be avoided, there are nonetheless lessons for us --particularly in light of the direction the Democratic Party wants to travel.

The Failure of the Unfree Market
Randall Hoven: What we have here is the failure of the unfree market. That means the failure of Greece. And the other PIGS (Portugal, Italy, Greece, Spain). And Europe. And it means the U.S., too. It even includes the Great Recession. The modern welfare state is collapsing around us.

Greece: A Preview of Things to Come
Vasko Kohlmayer: It is not that the Greek government is inherently stingy. Quite to the contrary, the Greek government has been one of the most generous when it comes to paying for social much so that for years it spent far more than it could really afford. Fox News correctly observed that "Greece lived for years beyond its means, borrowing money and spilling red ink to finance excessive government spending, offer socialized health care and provide lavish wages for federal workers."

The failure of government...
And then, of course, we probably won't get any worthwhile reforms. This current government sucks up to special interest just like the last several.

The White House Should Stop Pandering to the Street and Support Three Critical Banking Reforms
Robert Reich: The White House opposes three important financial reforms that have drawn bipartisan support in the Senate. It should reverse course.


I'd go on, but it would be just more depressing news.

Myths about economics

One of the biggest myths still making rounds on the internet -- and the halls of Congress -- is that the current economic situation we find ourselves in is the Bush administration's mad plunge into deregulation.

The latest major piece of deregulation was signed in 1999 by Clinton. Gramm-Leach-Bliley's lead sponsors were Republicans, but the 34 Democratic senators who voted for the bill surely weren't scheming to "let the market run wild." Ditto the 151 Democrats -- among them future Speaker Nancy Pelosi -- who voted for the measure in the House.

But of course Democrats have a convenient punching bag. Pelosi said the recession was caused by "The Bush Administration’s eight long years of failed deregulation policies..."

From Jeff Jacoby at the Boston Globe:
Now, this is not to say that Bush hasn't also been responsible for legislation having a decided impact on the country's regulatory climate. On July 31, 2002, declaring that free markets must not be "a financial free-for-all guided only by greed," he signed the Sarbanes-Oxley law, a sweeping overhaul of corporate fraud, securities, and accounting laws. Among its many tough provisions, the law created a new regulatory agency to oversee public accounting firms and auditors, and imposed an array of new requirements for financial reporting and corporate audits. Whatever else might be said about Sarbanes-Oxley, it was no invitation to an uninhibited capitalist bacchanal.

Like the alligators lurking in New York City sewers, Bush's massive regulatory rollback is mostly urban legend. Far from throwing out the rulebook, the administration has expanded it: Since Bush became president, the Federal Register -- the government's annual compendium of proposed and finalized regulations -- has run to more than 74,000 pages every year but one. During the Clinton years, by contrast, the Federal Register reached that length just once.
And Bush didn't strip agencies much either. Regulatory agencies employed 175,000 people in 2000. They employed nearly 264,000 when Bush left office.

Oh, and one last thing for your Bush-haters. You believe that Bush and Cheney caused oil prices to spike to $140 a barrel in 2008. Yup, these two guys caused this. Just picked up the phone and called their buddies in Texas and made them raise the price. So on the flip side I'm sure they caused it to fall to $30 something a barrel later that year. If you believe that these two guys were powerful enough to influence the world market on oil, then you really don't understand the basic concepts of economics and pricing. Either read Thomas Sowell's Basic Economics, or here's a short course in oil pricing.

But if you want to believe what you do -- for those of you who still insist on blaming Bush for everything -- then go ahead if it makes you sleep better at night.

But more government is not the answer to our problems. It's time to focus on the real causes, which ain't the "cowboy" from Texas, y'all.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Military considers raising health insurance costs for retirees

The cost of health care for the military has been a growing subject of late: As reported in Government Executive:
Some military retirees are finding a proposal for TRICARE fee hikes hard to swallow.
During a hearing earlier this week on a range of military budget issues, Adm. Gary Roughead, chief of naval operations, told lawmakers the ballooning expense of providing health coverage for retirees "eats into [funding for] our other programs." Roughead and two other high-ranking military leaders recommended that for the first time in more than a decade, the Pentagon ask retirees to contribute more money to their insurance coverage.
I don't think this is the answer for two reasons: 1) It breaks a promise made to military personnel  and 2) having retirees pick up more of the cost is not going to solve the problem of higher health care.

As Jim Arkedis at the Progressive Policy Institute Washington D.C. put it:
...recent wars have helped push costs skyward.

"You can't nit-pick the problem away through selective cuts to benefit programs because, first, there's a core constituency of hard-working military members, families and retirees who depend on them," he said. "And second, frankly, it wouldn't solve enough of the problem anyway. The key cost drivers are large-scale military deployments abroad."

"The moral of the story is that if you want to control personnel costs, you have to be really careful about which wars you fight — they better be the right ones."
Well, that's obvious. So why do we have military personnel deployed to more than 150 countries? Two wars still going on? etc., ad nauseum.  According to Wikipedia:
The military of the United States is deployed in more than 150 [1] countries around the world, with more than 369,000 of its 1,379,551[2] active-duty troops serving outside the United States and its territories. Many of these troops are still located at installations activated during the Cold War, by which the US government sought to counter the Soviet Union in the aftermath of World War II.
Do we really need this to protect our vital interest? Or is it just more pork?

But I digress. Back to health care.

One suggestion: Have active duty personnel start paying a premium for their dependents, who still get free health care. When ever you have a program that is very low cost or free, it gets overused, creating scarcity. This requires the military to hire more medical staff and drives up costs.

At one time when I was on active duty, our base hospital was so over-used by dependents (like using the ER for every little complaint that most people would use a pharmacy for), the Air Force considered charging $25 per visit. This was nixed as not politically popular.

I really don't mind paying a little more in Tricare premiums -- since they seem low by today's standards -- but this violates a promise of free health care if I served at least 20 years.

This may be one way to try to control the Pentagon's growing budget, but I'll bet there are better, more effective ways.

From my own experience, and I have personal experience in the military budgeting process, this will be a very hard thing to do. The process of funding the military will have to change, and that will be politically difficult. It has to start with a fickle Congress.

We need a strong national defense, second to none, but the Pentagon can be a black hole.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Pentagon says to Congress: Hold back

Seems the Pentagon thinks that military members are making enough already. The Washington Post reports:
The Pentagon, not usually known for its frugality, is pleading with Congress to stop spending so much money on the troops.
Through nine years of war, service members have seen a healthy rise in pay and benefits, with most of them now better compensated than workers in the private sector with similar experience and education levels. [emphasis mine]
That's the key here: similar experience and education. I need a show of hands from all you civilians out there:
  • Have you refueled a B-52 from a KC-135 at 45,000 feet, flying 15 feet apart while pumping thousands of gallons of JP-4 aviation fuel?
  • Have you crawled around some tropical shit hole while guys in funny clothing want to kill you, one of your team carrying a 12-gauge to defend against the cobras?
  • Have you spent a better part of a year on a temporary duty to a third-world country, not seeing your wife or kids, working 18-hour days to keep things going?
  • Have you spent Christmas eve sitting on top of an M-118 track, guarding the F-111s parked behind you?
  • Spent a dark night on the plains of South Dakota, wind chill of 80 below, guarding B-52s loaded with nuclear weapons?
  • Had to fly to remote bases so low that the sides of the canyons where just off the wing tips?  
These are just a few of the things military people do, and I did all of these things in my 25 years in the military. But hey, that was just the fun stuff. So please, don't tell me about similar experiences. There just aren't any.

I looked up my pay scale, and if I was still on active duty, as an E-8 with 26 years, I'd be pulling down about $86,000. And E-8 for you civilians is an Air Force senior master sergeant, Army master sergeant, Navy senior chief, or Marine gunney.

A base commander, normally a full bird colonel, who is responsible for 6,000 personnel and 75 aircraft, makes about a tenth of what a corporate CEO does.

Granted, no one joins the military to get wealthy, but they'd like get compensated so they can have the same standard of living as everyone else when they are not getting shot at.
If you think that is much too pay for this type of experience and education (a lot of us NCOs have college degrees), let me know and why.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Thoughts for Friday

Are you feeling safer?

How many of you think the federal government's current anti-terrorism programs have improved lately? Show of hands.

After the Christmas bomber, in which a passenger foiled his plans and the
"alleged" bomber was quickly Mirandized, Janet our Homeland protector says: "The system worked." My ass. You got lucky.

Then Miss Janet tells a senator that our borders are as secure as they have ever been. Next there's a shootout between drug smugglers and a border patrol agent (or sheriff's deputy?) at the border. The agent is injured. Yea. Real secure.

Then some idiot Islamic Terrorist tries to blow up Times Square, but he obviously didn't stay awake in class and the bomb doesn't go off. The investigation is so leaky that he gets wind of it and attempts to escape: makes a one-way reservation a few hours before the flight, pays cash, is put on the no-fly list, but gets on the airplane anyway. Someone was paying attention, however, and the feds nabbed the dirtbag after he had already boarded. His buddies are probably already back in Pakistan or some other shit hole.

Obama's policies working? There is not one damn thing Obama has done that has worked. This was plain old-fashioned luck.

News Flash: Unemployment up to 9.9 percent. That stimulus is really working. But this is a nominal unemployment rate for a welfare-state, so don't worry too much.
And you don't think we've become a welfare-state already? Nearly 40 million on food stamps. Liberals are proud of that number. Why? Because the more people on the government nipple, the more votes for Democrats. Those evil and mean Republicans wouldn't want you to have a life of luxury. No, they'll make you go to work.

What you say? No jobs. We'll, if the feds did their job, we wouldn't have 12-15 million illegals working here...and that's about the number of unemployed Americans, isn't it?

And one last thing: How about a government-supported program to provide free cell phones and low-cost airtime for "income-eligible" people (they mean poor people).

I want to be poor in this country. Free housing, free medical, free education, food stamps, a car, a phone. Why in the fuck should I work for a living? That way, I don't have to pay for shit. Let the other guy (which is me right now) pay for it.

I think I'll go join the Tea Party. The country is losing its mind, like Greece has already. After Europe falls, we're next.

Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

You learn something new everyday!

I didn't know this until today. According to the NY Times:
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg is in Washington this morning, testifying before the Senate, as timing would have it, on terrorism. Mr. Bloomberg is one of many elected officials addressing a hearing of the Senate’s Homeland Security Committee on “Terrorists and Guns: The Nature of the Threat and Proposed Reforms.”

The mayor’s speech is a plea for lawmakers to close the so-called “Terror Gap,” a hole in the law that prevents the federal government from blocking the sale of firearms or explosives to people on the the terrorist watch list... [emphasis mine]

...The Bush administration first proposed closing the gap in 2007. But because nothing has happened, people who may want to do our country harm have had no trouble buying guns and explosives, as the G.A.O. report clearly shows.

What? Someone on terror watch list can buy firearms and explosives?

All I can say is WTF, Over.

Do sanctions work?

I've always been of the opinion that sanctions are more destructive than they are worth. If you look at the history of them, they have not been very effective. Usually they are against a government, but end up hurting the people instead.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

What are they teaching these days?

Recently I was reading -- and posting my own comments  on -- a financial blog. The subject was federal spending. The discussion started out as where we spend our tax revenues, and whether there should be more for this, or less for that, until someone came in and started discussing the constitutionality of federal income taxes and spending. In other words, income taxes and many safety net programs are unconstitutional (disregarding there is an Amendment regarding income taxes.)

Everything was pretty much what you'd -- or at least I expected until one fellow posted some remarks that just threw me. Fall off your chair type comments. I'll take it one by one. My conclusions may not be the same as yours, but I must have learned the founding principles of this country differently than this fellow did.
What the original writers of the constitution meant is irrelevant since they are not around to defend their arguments.
What a start! And how illogical, but I'll bet a lot of people believe that our founder's principles are irrelevant. Until you actually read them, I guess. So what Jefferson, Washington, Madison, et al, meant is irrelevant because they are dead. Wow. Then logically what follows this argument is that what Lincoln, King or Kennedy argued is also relevant. "I have a dream" is irrelevant. Or how about Plato and Locke? Is what my father and mother taught me irrelevant, because they are dead? I don't think so.
For instance the 2nd amendment is used to defend any use of guns. Perhaps the writers of the constitution would say “No, that’s crazy. We meant having guns to defend against the British. They aren’t intended to be used in the way you are using them now.”
Not true. It doesn't defend the use of guns, only the right to bear them. I believe it was Jefferson who stated that the right to bear arms was especially important for a people to defend against any tyranny, not just the British. But hey, don't bother reading any of that...
Similarily they might say that the 1st amendment was not supposed to mean big business should have the right to trump the rights of the citizen with billions of dollars to finance candidates. We don’t know. Supreme Court justices make decisions based on the constitution? That’s B.S. Their decisions should be based on what is best for our country and its citizens.
Well, since our laws treat corporations as individuals, the Supreme Court, in following the Constitution, was correct. Doesn't mean it's right. What needs to happen is the laws dealing with corporations and campaign financing need to change, not the Constitution. But this writer wants the Court to just rule based on the Zeitgeist of the moment! If we allow the Court to rule what it thinks is best, who is to say that it is? Aren't the people supposed to decide?
If our constitution is so great, why hasn’t every other country in the world adopted our constitution? Our country ignores the poor, has a terrible trackrecord with minorities, still discriminates people based on sexual preference, has the least efficient health care system in the world, ships our jobs out to other countries at the expense of its citizens, and just contributed to a global market crash by our greed. I feel the constitution has failed to create a fair and equal society, and there are many people out there that would agree with me. I feel that the constitution is far more often used to defend positions that couldn’t be supported with other evidence.
So why hasn't every country used our constitution? Ask them. Our country has ignored the poor? In the last 40 years, we've spend trillions. I guess I could point out all the improvements we've made, and compare our accomplishments to say -- the old Soviet Union, communist China, Saudi Arabia, etc, but why bother. "The Constitution has failed to create a fair and equal society." That's not it's purpose. It's purpose is to protect your rights, not insure fairness or equality. You want equal opportunity to succeed, not equality of outcome. In the latter case,  how can anyone succeed beyond a basic level?

I won't even start on health care, but his understanding of efficiency vs. expense is fuzzy wuzzy...

The purpose of our Constitution is to limit government. In the last 100 years, the Constitution has been shredded. Government is now so powerful that you can't get it out of your life. The Federal Register (all the rules you have to follow) is now 157,000 pages in length.

Is this what is being taught in our schools today? Not only the lack of knowledge, but fuzzy logic? I sincerely hope not.

Campaign Finance Reform: Really?

If everything I'm reading so far on a new campaign finance reform bill is accurate, I'm going to support it, even if Chuck Shumer supports it also. One of the parts I like about it is requiring full (or at least more) disclosure.

Seems some folks don't like it, because it treats all organizations or groups equally. According to Investor's Business Daily:
But Disclose Act sponsors, like Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., indicated they won't back down.

"Some of our allies are not happy," Schumer said at the bill's unveiling last week. "We've told our friends in the unions that they should be treated the same as corporations, no more, no less."

The legislation is a response the Supreme Court's Citizens United v. FEC ruling, which tossed prior restrictions on campaign spending by corporations, arguing they ran afoul of the First Amendment.

Liberal groups reacted with horror, arguing that the decision would let corporations flood elections with money. President Obama slammed the ruling in his State of the Union address while several justices sat nearby. It was an unprecedented White House rebuke of the court.
We need some serious finance reform here. Why don't we take special interests out all together? Use federal funding ONLY to run. Would it not level the playing field?