So friendly!

So friendly!

Complete with the right to stand in the way of women health issues…er, I mean practice religious freedom.   And they have the right to free speech, but instead of vocal cords they use cold hard cash to do their talking.  Same thing.  So sayeth the Supreme Court it seems.  Really when you look at corporations, how could you say that they are anything else beside human beings?

  • The way they love one another.  Who can ever forget the day that Wendy’s and McDonald’s got married?  Yum! Brands kids Colonel Sanders, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, and the gang in attendance, not a dry eye in the house.  Such a wonderful ceremony!
  • The compassion they have for the world. Such as when our good friend General Motors realized how much they hurt people with their ignition switches.  They nipped that in the bud only a decade later because that’s just how much General Motors cares!  Only a person could show that much compassion.
  • When one of them dies, the others weep.  When Bear Stearns passed away, the only thing the other banks could do is cry and cry.  So sadden were they.  You know, before one of them scooped up the carcass.  Don’t want to be deemed not big enough to fail after all.
  • The way that they smile.  I mean look at this guy….I know you can’t help but smile too!
Look at those dimples!

Look at those dimples!

  • And it makes total sense the corporations should have religious freedoms.  Who can forget that it was Noah Inc. who built the ark so life could survive the flood?  It’s all right there in the Bible.
  • The way they can talk.  Money is speech after all.  So corporations have a LOT to say!

So corporations are people.  Clear as day.  Or maybe not.  Look, I get that corporations do need some level of rights and privileges.  But I think those should be granted by legislative statues.  I do not believe those rights are protected by the U.S. Constitution.  When the Declaration of Independence states that all men are created equal and are endowed by inalienable rights by their Creator, I just don’t think the authors had organizational structures in mind.

40 Years

Posted: March 23, 2014 in Miscellaneous
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So I just recently turned 40 years old.  Now that I’ve got the ‘man I am old!’ out of my system, I thought it might be fun to reflect on how things have changed during my lifetime.

What was happening on the day I was born? – On the specific day, doesn’t look like much.  Um…the Brazilian President resigned?  Er….

What was happening in the year I was born?  -  Ah, that’s better.  A little thing called Watergate forced President Richard Nixon to resign.  Franklin Bank became insolvent (apparently this was before banks became “too big to fail”).  The 55 mph speed limit was introduced.  Daylight savings time was expanded to try to deal with the energy crisis.  Pocket calculators first started appearing in stores.  The top-selling toy was Play-Doh.  Top movies included The Godfather Part II, Blazing Saddles, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.  Top television shows included All In The Family, The Waltons, and Sanford and Son.  The Way We Were by Barbara Streisand was the top song (blech!).  Unemployment was around 5.5%  (but poised to go up very soon, to over 7% by the beginning of 1975).  Inflation was over 11%!

New Things I’ve Have Seen In My Lifetime -  High-definition television sets.  Several iterations of ways to record television for later viewing.  Personal computers.  The internet.  Phones that don’t need wires.  Phones for more than just phone calls.  Digital music.  Digital cameras.  Devices in your car that will tell you where you need to go…by talking to you!  Video game systems.  The explosion of cable television networks.  Twenty-four hour news networks (blech!).  Artificial hearts.  The use of DNA for crime solving.  Space shuttles.  GPS.  Wars (way too many).  An African-American elected President of the United States!  Twice!

Things I’ve Seen Go Away In My Lifetime (Or Come And Go) -  Vinyl records, cassette tapes, VHS tapes, typewriters, Atari, disco, hair metal bands, gasoline for under $1 per gallon, floppy discs, Commodore 64, “Weird Al” Yankovic making hit music, MTV playing music videos,  Jell-O pudding pops, Taco Bell Rancho Steak Burritos, Jolt Cola, NFL teams in Los Angeles, “New” Coke, The California Raisins, The Soviet Union, West and East Germany, Nelson Mandela.

Things I Hope To See In Next 40 Years – How about a woman as President already?  Much less conflict in the world.  Much less poverty.  Yeah, that would be good.  Oh, and teleportation.  Because that would be awesome!

Anything I missed?

Alabama state motto.  (Yeah, I bet you thought it was "Roll Tide".)

Alabama state motto. (Yeah, I bet you thought it was “Roll Tide”.)

I’ve lived in the state of Alabama for about ten years now.  While there are many things to like about the state (the weather tends to be warm, the people are generally good, its naturally beautiful), there are areas where I sure wish we could get better.

  • Say again, why can’t Alabama accept the Medicaid expansion? - As part of the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid standards were expanded (just a bit) with the intent of providing more poor people with health care coverage.  However, The Supreme Court ruled that states could opt out of that expansion if they so choose.  Alabama chose.   Here’s the thing though.  Poor people don’t stop getting sick because we don’t expand Medicaid.  Eventually they are going to show up at the E.R. where they can’t be turned away.  It’s the doctors and hospitals that lose out because they won’t get reimbursed for the services they provide.  And then the costs get passed onto all of us anyway.  Plus the federal government is going to pay 100% of the expansion costs for the first three years, and still at least 90% after that.  To me, it makes more sense to 1) go ahead and provide the poor with coverage so they go ahead and get the care they need before it becomes an emergency (and more expensive) and 2) pay for this through taxation rather than by whoever loses the health lottery.
  • I beginning to suspect we aren’t very respectful toward women. -  First, we have this assclown who was convicted of 3 counts of rape of a minor, yet our court system refuses to throw him in jail.  We also have what a women’s prison in which the abuse of the prisoners is so bad, the federal government has literally declared the prison unconstitutional.  It seems like maybe we don’t take this stuff seriously.
  • A little more diversity of opinion in the state government might be nice. -  The governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general, auditor, treasurer, 22 out of 34 state senate members, 65 out of 105 state house members, and all 9 of the state Supreme Court justices are Republican.  But that might not be that bad if the Democrats were at least putting up strong opposition in the elections.  If the debate is held in that process and the state voters continue to go GOP, hey, at least the discussion was had.  But Democrats in this state barely bother.  Heck, sometimes you even get total cranks like this guy, who was once shot by his neighbor when the neighbor caught him pouring chocolate syrup on his car, running for Supreme Court Justice. (So if you wonder how a guy like Roy Moore could regain Supreme Court Justice after being kicked out once before, this was a big part of that answer.)
  • Or I would even settle for less stupid “debates” in the state government.  -  So our legislators spend time “debating” such issues such as the public display of the Ten Commandments in public buildings.  I suspect much of the “debate” was whether should we really display the Ten Commandments in public places or should we really, really display the Ten Commandments in public places.  Because clearly that would solve EVERYTHING (or at least shootings at school and the murder of moms and dads according to one of these legislators).  Sure, such display is unconstitutional.  But we pick and choose when we care about the Constitution.  Because gosh darn it, our legislators love the commandments and the bible, even if they don’t really know what’s in it.  Let’s put it up for a vote of the people and dare them to vote against God!  We’ll put it right in the state Constitution.  Speaking of which….
  • Can we just scrap our state Constitution and start over?  -  First, any document that has had to have been amended 856 times can’t be worth much (yes, it really does have 856 amendments).  At over 340,000 words, it is believed to be the wordiest active Constitution in the world.  But I don’t think bigger is better here.  Most of the length is because our state does not have what is known as “home rule”, the power for local governments to run their own affairs.  So when a county wants to, for instance, change a tax rate, it usually has to get a state amendment passed.   That means we often find ourselves voting on tax issues in which we are not involved.  (And yes, taxes have passed in localities affected only to have the rest of the state vote it down.)  So when you must have constitutional amendments for individual cities and counties, that tends to make it really long.  As an added bonus, we still have plenty of racism in there (technically our constitution still calls for segregation of schools by race).  We should just start with a clean slate.

Today the television program Meet The Press had a debate regarding climate change.  The people brought onto the show to discuss this important topic was a children’s program television host (Bill “The Science Guy” Nye) and renown climate expert Congressperson Marsha Blackburn from Tennessee (she also has expertise regarding gender issues – women do not want equal pay laws – very multi-talented).  I am sure it was a very rich deep discussion.

Man, how can they top that?  Well just check out this future schedule:

jon stewart 2stephen colbert 2

What is the state of today’s media?  Two award-winning journalists discuss this Sunday on Meet The Press – February 23 on NBC.

ponchdonald trump

Is the time for immigration reform now?  A Hispanic California police officer and arrogant smug rich New York white guy will debate this Sunday on Meet The Press – March 2 on NBC.

vitamin cpink floyd

This Sunday we will take on education reform.  Some say graduation is a sad but important rite of passage toward flight.  Others say we don’t need no education.  Watch Meet The Press for this most important discussion – March 9 on NBC.

doc mcstuffinscare bears

Obamacare.  Is the most important aspect the medicine?  Or is it “care”?  Watch an improbably young doctor debates this issue with cuddly teddy bears this Sunday on Meet The Press – March 16 on NBC.

Hmm.  Is it me or have things changed a bit since Tim Russert’s passing?

Couldn't we have done the Walking Dead reenactment some time when it wasn't so cold?

Couldn’t we have done the Walking Dead reenactment some time when it wasn’t so cold?

Snowpocalypse is probably more appropriate, but everyone else is using that and, besides, Snowfest sounds more festive, right?  Anyway, I lived through it here in Birmingham.  Everyone heard about Atlanta, right?  Well everything that happened at Atlanta happened here too.  The total and complete gridlock of the greater city’s roads and interstates.  The spending the night in vehicles.  The ditching of vehicles to either walk home, check into hotels, or take shelter wherever somebody would have you.   The spending the night in offices (me!).  The kids stranded overnight in school (this actually may have been more true in Alabama than Georgia, I think I saw a combined number of 15,000 and I know for Alabama it was over 11,000 kids).   And for a “lucky” few, they got to experience this for a couple of nights.

Anyway, this was a unique experience for me, and I definitely learned a lot.   For instance:

  • Yes, it is absolutely necessary to shut the city down for winter weather. Yes, even if it’s just for 2 inches of snow.  So I know the big thing for northerners to do is to make fun of the fact that southerners “can’t drive on snow”.  And it is true that we are not very experienced and that’s no doubt a factor.  However, it’s not like in the north that if it snows that the governments just shrug their shoulders and wish everyone luck.  They get various resources out to pretreat roads before the precipitation hits and then clear roads during and after it hits.   In Birmingham, we have just about jack and squat of those kind of resources.   Let me also tell you too that we also seem to have more tendency to have ice develop on our roads (the roads here were not snow-covered, they were ice-covered), partly again because we don’t pretreat the roads.  I don’t care how good of a driver you claim you are, you can’t drive on ice!   Then add  to that the fact that the Birmingham area has a remarkable number of significant hills.  Even if you somehow are good at driving on ice, trying to go up a long steep hill on ice is a whole ‘nother thing.  Anyway, it is clear that in lieu of buying ice/snow equipment and chemicals here in Birmingham, we have chosen that for the very few times we get this kind of weather, we are going to just shut down.   That’s probably not that unreasonable.   But I now know it absolutely has to be done.
  • There is still improvement that can be made in weather forecasting.  I don’t know the deal for Atlanta.  I heard claims that they had two days warning.   But I do know the forecast for Birmingham was for just a dusting of snow with no travel problems.   To me, it’s not that stunning they missed the forecast.  That happens.  But I can’t believe how long it took for them to figure out they had blown it.  So it’s Tuesday morning of the storm.   My coworker friend who has a window in her office is IM’ing me about how bad it is looking outside.  I check a local weather blog.  A 10:05 am blog post states “the forecast continues to hold” which called for a Birmingham dusting.  Go ahead, click the link, read for yourself.   So while I believe what my friend is saying, I think it has to be only temporary.  After all, these guys are the experts.  Surely they know what’s going to happen in the next couple of hours.  At 10:48 am, there is finally the first uh-oh (though they still won’t come off the ‘dusting’ forecast, it’s just the ‘dusting’ is causing more travel problems than they had anticipated).  At 11:09 am, the message that a Winter Storm Warning had been issued finally went out.  By then, it was too late.  (In fairness, the head meteorologist did later post what seems to be a sincere mea culpa essay.)
  • That said, we need to see if we can come up with a better plan if a forecast is blown again. Obviously closing everything and getting everyone out on the road at once is a recipe for problems even in perfect driving weather.  Doing that with icy roads…well clearly that created a disaster.  Now I don’t know all the solutions.  Can you somehow create an emergency plan where you stagger school closings?  Would mass transit have helped?  But I think while this is fresh on everyone’s mind, we need to see if there are any steps that can be taken to prevent this from ever happening again.
  • I’m too old to sleep on the floor.  I stayed in denial for quite a while.  I couldn’t believe what was happening, but was quite sure that the traffic situation was going to clear up.  Just give it another hour.  Or two. Or three.  Or…uh oh.    I even thought about trying to give it a shot.  Common sense finally kicked in though when I realized there was no reason to think I would do any better than anyone else.   So about 4 or 5 or so, I came to terms that I would be staying the night in the office.  Hey, I had plenty of company.   Anyway, worst night ever!  (Didn’t help that one of the lights that stays on when you turn “off” the lights was right outside my office.  But yes, the floor was mucho hard.)   If there is a next time (and let’s hope not!), I’m either walking to my apartment or buying an air mattress.  I can’t do floors anymore.
  • These situations bring out the worst in people.  So the mayor in Leeds, Alabama decided that the only way to get cars out of the way was to impound them at the owner’s expense.  Somehow other cities were able to figure out how to clear cars out of the way without impounding them.  But I guess it was too tough to figure out for Leeds.  I also saw reports of hotels turning people away from their lobbies and some school principals being a little less understanding than they should have been about parents not being to pick up their children.
  • However, more often than not, these situations bring out the best in people.  As bad as it was, it could have been worse.  But for the most part, when there is a need, we people will pull together and do what needs to be done.  Many businesses and hotels did open up their doors for people to stay (my company did that for strangers that had made their way to our building as well).  If they could, they provided food as well.  School teachers and administrators took care of the stranded children.  You had a brain surgeon WALK SIX MILES so he could get to the hospital to perform emergency surgery.  And he wasn’t the only doctor to do so!  There are actually too many good things to list.  And that’s pretty cool.
Umm...those aren't gems.

Umm…those aren’t gems.

The big advantage of passing a big omnibus budget appropriations bill is you can get the funding set without long drawn out debates about each particular line item.  And with Congress having trouble passing ANYTHING these days, it may be best to get as much in something that will pass as you can.  However, a big disadvantage when you have a bill that’s over 2,500 pages is that it is pretty easy to put things in that would never, ever pass Congress if they were voting on it as a stand-alone item (in fact, I wonder if some of these things would have any more support than the whomever decided to throw these things into the bill?).

Now that the bill is passed and media types have had a chance to read through the bill, these hidden “gem” items are beginning to leak out.  Among those are:

  • Prohibits the movement of the Embassy to the Vatican
  • Rationale?   The Bush Administration actually started to wheels in motion on this.  The plan was to move the embassy to the Vatican to the same building that houses the U.S. Embassy to Italy in Rome.  The supposed reason was that having the embassies in the same building would make security for both easier, plus there would be cost savings by not having to administer embassies in two different buildings.  But alas, that was not the real reason.  It’s clear now that President Bush KNEW that the next President would be Barack Obama and he would claim to be all christian and stuff when in fact he is nothing but a no good mooslim!!!  When President Obama failed to stop this plan, conservative websites would be there to expose him as the anti-religion mooslim that he is!!!!  Well played, W.  Well played.
  • Blocks funding for the enforcement of light bulb efficiency standards
  • Rationale?  Because gosh darn it, we Americans loves us some incandescent bulbs!  Efficient energy-saving bulbs are for communists!  Maybe even the devil!  High energy costs are as American as apple pie!
  • Reduces funding for embassy security
  • Rationale?  It’s so terrible what happened in Benghazi.  Those poor souls.  Why didn’t President Obama and Hilary Clinton do more?  Wait, you want more money for embassy  security?  Oh goodness no, let’s not get carried away, we don’t have the money for that.  It’s not like the people who died were rich or something.  But still, terrible what happened.
  • Bans the IRS from making those cheesy videos
  • Rationale?  I mean, what’s the harm in the IRS having a little fun?

No, no.  That’s actually pretty terrible.

  • Requires the DHS to provide detailed reports regarding ammunition purchases and useage
  • Rationale?  The DHS is stockpiling ammunition don’t you know.  Yes, the DHS is preparing for WAR!  WAR AGAINST THE AMERICAN PEOPLE!  Why not just use the military?  Because they have morals, unlike those thugs of the TSA who will do anything for money!  How do I know all this?  Why the fine folks at Alex JonesInfo Wars told me!  Reading this site has taught me so much!  The Aurora, Colorado theater shooting?  Government did it.  Oklahoma City bombing?  Government so blew up that building!  Also, Obama is so planning a large scale attack on Americans killing thousands to help ensure he wins reelection because……hmm, wait, doesn’t seem like that actually happened.  But I am sure that was all part of some larger plot!   More Alex Jones wisdom:

Alex Jones, a must read for what the real scoop is in this world!  And now to know what potential legislation might be heading up the pike!  Comforting I know.

Get a job you hippie!

Get a job you hippie!

When I sometimes read the comments sections (and I do realize reading those is my first mistake) of articles regarding government assistance programs (or sometimes even private charitable assistance programs), it occurs to me that there are a lot of people who fear nothing more than assisting someone who is “undeserving”.  And just a general disdain for the poor.   Sure, they might allow that a few people might come into hard times honestly, but for the most part  they think the poor are just lazy leeches on society who manipulate the system and are just not deserving of our attention.  And in fact if we would just eliminate the government safety net, private charity would pick up the slack to serve those TRULY in need and it will be all good.

Now certainly there are some lousy no-good poor people in the world (but I would also point out that there are lousy no-good rich people in the world too).  And some of those people commit fraud (just like some rich people do).  But I just can’t help but to have a few other thoughts:

  • I know I keep harping on this statistic, but 25% of children in this country are food insecure.  What the heck did kids do to not deserve to know where their next meal is coming from?
  • Charities are awesome!  Still, even with the existence of charity, 25% of children in this country are food insecure.  So they are not making up the gap in need even now.  Why would we expect charities to be able to make up even a larger gap if you start reducing or especially eliminating government assistance?  Put another way, charities provide roughly $5 billion in food assistance each year.  That’s a lot for sure.  But it doesn’t seem as much when you compare it the roughly $100 billion in food assistance that the federal government provides.  So even if government food assistance is just cut by 5%, private charity food assistance would have to double to make up the difference.  Seems unrealistic to me.
  • Should we be so judgmental toward those who are in need?  The Bible seems to have a few things to say about that.  Such as:  “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.   For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.  Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?  How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”  I don’t think we should be so quick to judge.  We aren’t very good judges anyway.
  • Speaking of judgment, I think we probably tend to way overestimate the amount of fraud/waste in these programs.  When I look for actual statistics instead of anecdotal information, it appears that the fraud/waste is somewhere between 3%-5% in most programs.  (It might be a bit higher for Medicare/Medicaid, but I would submit a lot of that fraud is being perpetrated by doctors & hospitals, not the poor.)  Sure, we all here stories of people committing fraud, but with the reach of media these days, we are all hearing about the same people.
  • You can’t run a programs like this and have 0% fraud/waste.  It’s just not possible.  So if eliminating waste/fraud is our top priority, we pretty much need to just eliminate these programs.

I don’t know.  To me, if given the choice of providing 20 people with help even if only 15 truly need it or providing 10 people with help who all truly need it but leaving 5 truly needy people out in the cold, I’m going to go with the option that helps 20 people even with the waste.  I would rather make sure everyone who needs help gets help, and I believe the best way to do that is to provide more than enough and accept that there will be a level of waste.  I’m also not big in deciding who and who is not deserving.  I don’t have the time and ability, and would rather just help people who need help.