Archive for April, 2011

Yes, this one too.

Good job Dearborn, Michigan.  You are managing to turn a despicable, vile human being into a champion of 1st Amendment rights.  You are forcing people who think this guy is worthless trash to come to his defense.  What’s funny is that it is in the name of tolerance, but this is exactly the opposite of tolerance.  Meanwhile the troll gets fatter on all of this attention that he is receiving, just like he wanted all along.  In the process, you’ve managed to allow this guy to be on the right side of an issue for once.  That’s a pretty neat trick, Dearborn.

The Florida redneck preacher who likes burning Qurans decided that he was going to have a protest in front of the Islamic Center, the largest mosque in America.  Of course, the primary purpose of this protest (which I am going to suspect would number in the less than tens) was to draw media attention to himself.  The media has actually been doing a pretty decent job recently not playing the preacher’s games.  But Dearborn couldn’t leave well enough alone.  A prosecutor found an old law from 1846 that requires a person to pay for a “peace bond” if it is believed by a jury that a person will “likely breach the peace”.  The result, a judge ruled that the preacher has to pay a $1 bond, but more importantly order the preacher banned from stepping anywhere near the mosque for three years (as a bonus, since the preacher refused to pay the bond, he was thrown into jail for good measure until somebody paid the bond for him).

Sorry, I don’t care about what this preacher has to say, but this blatantly violates his constitutional right to say it.  Unpopular speech is the very speech the First Amendment is designed to protect (after all, popular speech needs no protection).  There are no qualifiers to the amendment, such as Congress will pass no law abridging the freedom of speech…..unless it pisses somebody off.  Or unless it is really stupid.  No, we the people have the right to express opinions that are dumb and stupid.

It’s also bothersome that basically this preacher is being punished for something that he hasn’t even done yet.   And it is really because people fear what OTHER people might do in response, not fearing the actions of the preacher himself.  If OTHER people might start a riot, shouldn’t it be the OTHER people who pay the peace bond?  It seems to me that it’s those people who are really breaching the peace.

Let’s look at a hypothetical example, changing the players a bit.  Say President Obama decides to hold a campaign event in Dearborn, Michigan.  Say that a Tea Party group that finds Obama controversial plans a protest in response.  Say a prosecutor fears that the Tea Party protest might get out of hand and “breach the peace”.  Are they going to prosecute Obama?  Shut his event down?  Throw him into jail if he doesn’t pay the “peace bond”?  So to stop somebody from exercising their free speech rights, you only have to find a mob that makes the community fear that something bad might happen?

I wished people would just ignore this guy, treat him like the nobody that he is.  Or come up with a much better response, such as one Utah Presbyterian church.  This Utah church will be handing out free Qurans on Easter Sunday.  Included with each Quran will be a bookmark.  The bookmark says, “This book was donated by the leaders of Wasatch Presbyterian Church who are not afraid of truth wherever it can be found.”  That is awesome!  Just about a million times better than Dearborn’s response!

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So I recently said that I didn’t understand why the media was taking Donald Trump seriously as a Presdiential candidate.  But recently, I’ve ran across some polling data.  A NBC/Wall Street Journal poll has Trump in second place to Mitt Romney.  A CNN poll has Donald Trump tied with Mike Huckabee for first.  And according to Public Policy Polling, Trump has surged into the lead of a hypothetical Republican primary by 9 points over the next closest potential candidate Huckabee.  What on earth is going on?  The guy is a reality TV show host that pretends to be a successful business man but is actually a man who inherited a shitload of money from his dad and makes his money by being Donald Trump.  This is a guy that people want to be President of the United States?

Wonder how Mr. "Dancing With The Stars" would do in the polls?

But now I’ve seen some of the wisdom Trump has been disseminating via interviews, and it makes TOTAL sense!

  • Trump on Obama’s birthplace:  Oh goody, Donald has decided he’s a birther!  Oh really, he just has doubts and he wants to get to the bottom of it.  He’s dispatched his own investigators.  They are looking into it and according to Trump they “cannot believe what they are finding.”  Well that’s good enough proof for me, Obama was born in Kenya.  Let’s get a special election going right now.  But Trump goes even further.  He said, “If he (Obama) weren’t lying why wouldn’t he just solve it?”  The logic is infallible.  Obama clearly was just playing a shell game when he released his birth certificate, he wasn’t serious about solving it, so he must be lying.  To further prove his point, Donald Trump released his own birth certificate.  Except it really wasn’t a birth certificate at all.  But those are just details.  Details aren’t important.  Unless you have a name that sounds Muslim to some people.
  • Trump on rising gas prices:  If you been to the pumps lately, you have noticed that gas is getting pricey again (at least by our standards).  So what to do, what to do?  Fortunately Trump has the answer!  Tell OPEC to lower their oil prices.  Brilliant!  We just tell them to lower prices.  Why didn’t anyone else think of that?  So what’s the key to this winning strategy?  Prices “will go down if you say it properly.”  You see, Trump knows it is all about how the message is delivered.  As he says, “You know, I can send two executives into a room.  They can say the same thing.  One guy comes home with the bacon and the other one doesn’t.  And I’ve seen it a thousand times.  It’s the messenger.”  The man knows what he is talking about!

Donald learned negotiating/persuasion/”brainpower” tactics from FedEx commercials!

  • Donald Trump on Libya: Donald said that we should either go in there and take all the oil or don’t go in there at all!  That’s right, we should take the oil.  It’s our right as Americans to take the world’s oil!  Now Trump leaves it a mystery to why we don’t just tell them to give us their oil.  But perhaps Trump figures that using his “brainpower” to take advantage of everyone all the time isn’t very sporting.  It’s kinda like how Luke and Obi Wan didn’t use their Jedi mind tricks to just convince the imperial construction crew to stop building the Death Star.  After all, how would that be fair?
  • Donald Trump on racial relations:  Donald says “he has a great relationship with the blacks.”  I’m sure “the blacks” are glad to hear it!
  • Donald Trump on religion:  Donald always goes to church on Christmas.  And on Easter.  And “during the Sundays.”  I’m sure “the Sundays” are glad to hear it!
  • Donald Trump on his daughter Ivanka:  “I’ve said if Ivanka wasn’t my daughter, perhaps he would be dating her.”  See, that’s….that’s……um….ok, so that’s not a good example, because that’s just wrong.

So it is clear that with the policy expertise that Trump has been displaying, he should be a frontrunner for President.  Or perhaps what this really means is that Republican voters are so dismayed with their choices that they are just saying Trump to pollsters as a proxy for “everyone else sucks”, realizing that polls don’t count as actual votes.  Nah, that couldn’t be it.  Polls are ALWAYS right!  Right?

Just ask this guy!

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I said budgets, not banjos!

The President’s Plan:  The President’s Budget For Fiscal Year 2012

U.S. Representative Paul Ryan’s (R) Plan:  A Roadmap For America’s Future

New York Times Comparison of the Two Plans:  Comparing Republican and Obama Budget Plans

The President’s plan looks to be the more common sense approach to me.  No, it doesn’t magically fix everything.  But it’s a start.  It’s going to take long-term fiscal restraint to eliminate the deficit and start reducing the debt anyway.  Also, the President understands this problem can NOT be solved by looking at spending alone.  We have to get more revenue.  And as much complaining as we all like to do about taxes, they really have been slashed significantly over the last couple of decades.  You just can’t do that and continue to provide the services that we the people expect from our government and not have a large deficit.

In contrast, the Ryan plan looks to be a…let’s say….a bit more soulless approach.  First, it’s a spending cut only approach.  Heck, not only that, he actually is proposing even MORE tax cuts.  Of course, the rich and corporations would be the beneficiaries.  Then, he has a plan that really is truly inadequate for Medicare.  It basically cans the whole thing and replaces it with vouchers.  Then on top of that, it ties the vouchers to the consumer price index, which unfortunately has no relationship to the rise in health care costs.  That means eventually seniors will have to pay a significant portion for health care out their own funds (the Congressional Budget Office estimates that portion to be between $6,400 and $7,000 to get the same level of coverage as they have now).  Obama was right to call out the immorality of such a plan, stating that they “want to give people like me a $200,000 tax cut that’s paid for by asking 33 seniors to each pay $6,000 more in health costs? That’s not right….”

But regardless of how this debate goes, what I really hope is that there is an attempt made to educate the masses about what really makes up this country’s budget.  Polling numbers show that half of Americans think foreign aid makes up at least 20% of the budget (the average guess was 25%, it’s really less than 1%).  In another poll, the median guess for the percentage of the budget made up by PBS/NPR funding was 5% (it’s really about 0.01%).  It is things like Medicare, Social Security, and national defense spending (it’s still unbelievable to me that we spend more on our military than the next 5 ranked countries combined) that actually makes up huge chunks of our budget (more than 50% combined).  Until we as a nation have that fundamental understanding, I don’t see how a budget debate can have much meaning to the voters.

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  • So Congress adverted a potential government shutdown with an eleventh hour agreement regarding this year’s budget.  All this bickering was because cutting 1.6% of the budget is either extreme and draconian or economically sound, while cutting 0.8% of the budget was either reasonably measured or a non-serious effort to make budget cuts.  Finally both sides agreed that 1.0% was just right.  Meanwhile the deficit will probably be the biggest ever regardless of which option was selected.
  • That said, it is important to the entities getting funded.  It is like if Bill Gates decided to give $500,000 to some local charity.  That amount of money doesn’t mean a whole lot to Bill Gates, but it would mean a lot to the charity.  So since we aren’t solving the deficit or debt anyway, the focus should be on cutting waste, not reaching some magic number in dollars that isn’t going to make a hill of beans difference anyway.  (Cutting waste does not mean cut funding from organizations that your party has a vendetta against, Mr. Boehner!).  The GAO recently submitted a study that identified hundreds of government programs which perform duplicative and/or overlapping services.  With the consolidation and elimination of duplicate programs, the government could save billions of dollars (likely a good bit more than the $38.5 billion proposed in the agreement) without reducing services provided.  Of course, what will likely happen is that this report will simply be used as an excuse to cut programs willy-nilly without putting the effort in to actually effectively consolidate and streamline government services.  Or the report will be ignored.  Or somehow both at the same time.
  • Well at least that’s over.  So what’s next?  Oh wait, that’s just the 2011 budget?  We still have to do this again for 2012?  Oh, and then there’s the debt ceiling thing we are going to have to deal with.  I’m sure that will go real smoothly.  No political posturing this time, no siree!
  • Time to give credit where credit is due.  A while back, a redneck “preacher” became a media sensation when he decided it would just be a dandy idea to threaten to burn a Qur’an.  I was of the opinion that what an idiot chooses to do with his time is not newsworthy and that the media was giving this guy exactly the attention he wanted but didn’t deserve.  Well recently this idiot “preacher” decided he wanted more attention and finally followed through on his threat.  The U.S. media ignored him this time.  But unfortunately, the international media did not.  And neither did the Afghan president and ultimately the Afghan people.  That just goes to show that poor judgment is not limited to just the U.S. press.  (Really folks, there are idiots everywhere.  You can’t get up in arms every time an idiot acts like….well, an idiot.  It will just lead to you doing something idiotic.  Or in this case, even worse.  The existence of idiots does not justify the harming of innocents, ever!)
  • Speaking of idiots, why is the media taking Donald Trump seriously in regards to a Presidential run?  If Paris Hilton or Snooki decided that they might want to run for President, would that be taken seriously?  It would be just as credible.  On second thought, don’t answer that question.  I’m afraid I wouldn’t like the answer!
  • Glenn Beck is out at Fox News.  Oh man!  Now how am I suppose to know where I can go to invest in gold and get the survival merchandise needed to be prepared for this nation’s inevitable collapse once the conspiracy that only Beck is smart enough to see through finally reaches its end goal?!!!!  We are doomed!!!!!

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Can we still believe?

Barack Obama announced that he was seeking reelection on Monday.  His official website asks, “Are you in?”  Unfortunately I have to say that at this time, I am not.  Too many disappointments:

  • New war – Really I could just end with this.  I can’t tell you how disappointed I am that Obama got us into yet another war.  The one thing I kept thinking that although there have been a lot of disappointments, at least we haven’t gotten into a new war.  And then Obama blows that.  He can spin it anyway he wants, but it’s a real war and it’s ours.  Under NATO command?  The United States IS NATO.  Got UN support?  Well yeah, except the countries that didn’t (Brazil, Germany, Russia, China, and India).  But fortunately we got the support of Herzegovina and Gabon!  By the way, the Constitution does not require the support of the United Nations for military action.  It does require Congressional approval, which at least Bush paid lip service to by getting a resolution passed before invading Afghanistan and Iraq.
  • Not closing GITMO – This was an explicit campaign promise.  He didn’t say he would try to close GITMO, but only if Congress would let him.  He said he would close GITMO.  The President could actually exercise some political muscle on the matter.  He could insist that one way or the other, he will close the prison and present Congress with an ultimatum.  He chooses not to.  Must not be that important after all.
  • Military Tribunals – Obama has started the military tribunals back up, with some window dressing changes.  The administration has also reversed itself on KSM, now trying him in a military tribunal (at GITMO no less) instead of a civilian court.  Somehow these “fake” courts have suddenly become less “fake”?  Nah, this is pure politics.  Screw principle, Obama has a reelection to win.
  • Patriot Act – This was an affront to civil rights when Bush was President.  But Obama hasn’t done anything to address this and has in fact signed reauthorization of some of the more controversial provisions (roving wiretaps, the “lone wolf” provision that allows secret surveillance of non-U.S. citizens not connected to a terrorist group, a provision that allows the FBI to secretly obtain internet, financial, and other personal records of U.S. citizens).
  • Health Care Reform – This needed to be address, and kudos for Obama for trying to do something.  Still, I think he caved way too much to the health care industry.  He should have fought harder for the public option.  Without that, the individual mandate requirement may not be legal, which is important if you are going to cover everybody regardless of pre-existing conditions.  Otherwise you risk adverse selection (basically a fancy way of saying people will just wait until they are sick before buying insurance).
  • Corporate Taxes – Candidate Obama was all “we aren’t going to let American corporations that create jobs overseas take deductions on their expenses when they do not pay any American taxes on their profits.”  So General Electric doesn’t pay any corporate taxes.  In fact, over the last 5 years, while making profits of $26 billion within the United States, they actually received a tax “refund” of $4.1 billion.  Not only that, they also received $125 million in taxpayer stimulus money.  All the while, they have been cutting their American workforce.  Oh, and President Obama also made GE’s CEO the head of his panel for job creation and economic competitiveness.  That’s showing him!

So no, right now, I am not in.  Not that it matters.  Obama’s fortune largely rides on the economy.  If that unemployment rate turns around for him, he will probably be in good shape, especially looking at the crop of potential Republican candidates.  It doesn’t look like they have anyone too inspiring, so Obama will have to lose it, I don’t think they have anybody that can win it (then again, Obama kind of came out of no where in his own right, so you never know).

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