Saturday, May 19, 2012

With Liberty Comes Responsibility: Make Smarter Soft Drink Decisions

Just how bad are soft drinks for you?  A new study indicates if you are drinking more than one soda a day, you are at an increased risk for stroke.  Dr. Melina Jampolis indicated,
The dangers of soda extend beyond the increase in calories, although this is likely an important contributor to weight gain and obesity. Calories consumed in liquid form do not satisfy hunger as effectively as calories consumed in solid food form, so people often consume more total calories, which can lead to weight gain.
In addition, consuming large amounts of rapidly digested sugar and high fructose corn syrup causes a spike in blood sugar and insulin, which can lead to inflammation and insulin resistance, both of which may increase your risk of stroke, heart disease, diabetes, obesity and cancer.
The large doses of fructose from both sucrose (table sugar) and high fructose corn syrup may be particularly detrimental to your health as they can cause the accumulation of metabolically toxic belly fat, cholesterol abnormalities -- including high triglycerides and reduced levels of HDL (good cholesterol) -- and nonalcoholic associated fatty liver disease.
Soda is also associated with symptoms of gastro-esophageal reflux disease, when the contents of the stomach leak back up and cause a burning sensation in the esophagus. While drinking soda is not known to cause ulcers, it can cause symptoms to flare up.
The American Heart Association indicates we should have less than 3 regular soft drinks per week. I read this to family members, and they always say to me, "my diet pepsi has 0 calories though, so I am okay."

Studies are also starting to indicate significant harm from diet soft drinks too (meaning coke zero, diet pepsi, diet coke aren't going to save you with 0 calories).  The NY Times reported in 2012,
Some studies have suggested that consumption of diet soft drinks may be associated with Type 2 diabetes and development of the condition known as metabolic syndrome — high blood pressure, abdominal obesity and other risk factors. Now a 10-year epidemiological study has found a link between diet soft drinks and cardiovascular disease.
 So much for the conventional wisdom that diet soft drinks are not a problem.

If we want to solve obesity, we have to make smarter decisions.  Realizing diet soft drinks aren't going to save us from the problems that soft drinks cause is one starting point. 

I don't want government using costs of health care to infringe on our liberty, but if we want to stop that type of infringement, we have to start showing we can take personal responsibility instead of just shouting how it is about personal responsibility and creating higher costs by bad decision making just to be stubborn. 

With liberty comes responsibility.

Fiction over Reality: Rubio Ignores Reality to Call Obama Divisive

GOP "rising star" Marco Rubio called President Obama the most divisive and destructive President in history.  It is here that Rubio exposes both his lack of understanding of U.S. history and his hyperpartisanship.  It is clear he is seeking a VP nod and significance in the GOP before the spotlight passes him by. 

Historically speaking, elections surrounding the turn of the century have been as aggressive and divisive as it gets, leading to significant impacts on the U.S. each time.  And that doesn't even focus on George W. Bush and the GOP's hyperpartisanship and the damage done of two wars, doubling the national debt in eight years, having two recessions (including starting the recession that Obama has been dealing with his entire term), and far more. 

Looking at Obama's term specifically, the President has done things that are unprecedented including meeting with the entire GOP congressional contingent and going down to Capital Hill to do it.  He has made offer after offer of compromise, only to have the GOP say "sure, we will take the parts we like and scrap the rest."  They have held up nominations in ways that have never been done before, used the threat of filibuster to stifle legislation, and yet President Obama still tries to work with them. 

President Obama compromised on health care reform and sacrificed some components of his plan to adopt the Mitt Romney and Bob Dole market approach.  President Obama compromised on tax cuts when his base wanted taxation on the richest in America.  He gave the GOP their dream debt deal with an automatic 10% across the board cut if no deal was reached (who knows what incentive that gives the GOP to deal, especially the "tea party" GOPers).  He has focused on debt reduction to compromise with the GOP at a time when no objective economist would ever have supported austerity measures. 

Marco Rubio, remember, it takes someone willing to actually come to the negotiation table to negotiate with.  When not one but two American Enterprise Institute scholars have come out and said it is the GOP causing the problems in Washington, that says it all. 

SpaceX Launch Aborted: Why do we care?

SpaceX's first launch attempt to the space station flopped.  What does it mean and why should we care? 

It wasn't that long ago that President Obama was slammed for shifting NASA's attention on Mars, and cutting funding for the space shuttles.  It was proclaimed as a necessity in the budget by Republicans, as they showed their lack of faith in private enterprise when it comes to space.  They proclaimed it as the end of American adventurism by this President.

Yet, now, we are starting to see the results of previous programs coming to fruition.  SpaceX failed in its first attempt but several companies are already going to space in test aircraft and selling trips to the rich to go to space.  It is the beginning of space tourism that started with incentives for development over the last decade. 

With success or failure on this trial, it will bring more to the race to colonize space for space tourism.  It is bringing new ideas to bear about how to do it more efficiently, and how to do it so you and I can afford to go to space as if it was a trip to Disneyland (what an amazing experience that would be, DisneySpace).

However, the great benefits come from the research and development focusing on travel to Mars that NASA is focused on.  Tomorrow's computer, microwave, or other techologies may well come from the research done to figure out solutions on going to Mars.  Whether we get to Mars or not, these developments bode well for the next economic revolution in America from the technologies that will become pervasive 20 years from now.

Realize, space tourism is tomorrow is only possible from that crazy investment of trying to go to the moon.  And whether or not SpaceX succeeds in the coming years or fails, we will see the development of space in ways we cannot yet understand.  It will mean new understandings, new inventions, and new possibilities for us all.  Celebrate the attempt, for in the attempt is where Greatness comes from.

Domestic Abuse: Why does the GOP fight against ending it?

Republicans and Democrats are at odds over who should be covered in the Violence Against Women Act
The Senate approved its version last month with bipartisan support. The vote was 68 to 31 with every female Republican supporting the measure. That bill would expand coverage for illegal immigrants and Native Americans who are victims of domestic abuse. It also specifies the inclusion of gay, lesbian and transgender victims.

House Republicans oppose those changes and stripped them from the Republican-backed bill that passed this week 222 to 205, largely splitting along party lines.
Historically, the GOP has voted against and fought against the Violence Against Women Act for reasons that I have never understood.  I have never understood why violence against women would be acceptable to them.  We have long known that domestic violence is the hidden abuse because it is inside our homes, because the repercussions of reporting it are so great (loss of home, loss of family, loss of sense of belonging, loss of support in many cases, and feelings of guilt as if it was one's own fault), because it is long been thought that if it happens inside the home, it is off limits to public scrutiny (unless, of course, someone is gay).  But at some point, the political tides became too powerful to oppose for them.

Now, the GOP is opposing addressing domestic violence when it relates to illegal immigrants (as if the status justifies allowing them to be abused), Native Americans (as if they are not worthy of the protections of other Americans), and gays, lesbians, and transgender victims (this may be the crux of this whole thing).

Side note that will make sense in a second.  I just happened to watch Philadelphia (with Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington, if you haven't seen it, you should) today.  As Tom Hanks' character, an up and coming, highly skilled lawyer gets fired after his high powered law firm finds out he has AIDS, he sues for wrongful termination.  In the testimony and in conversation between the partners of the firm, it becomes clear that the termination is about their beliefs that it wasn't wrongful because his "immoral" acts justified any and all punishment that could be heaped upon him.  In the end, Hanks' character wins his case because it was clearly discriminatory, having nothing to do with the issue... was he competent in his job.  Their attitudes about gays and AIDS blurred their ability to see the issues.

This is a parallel track for most discrimination and is the case again.  Whether it is the "immorality" of being an "illegal alien" or being someone who is gay, lesbian, or transgender is true or not is irrelevant to the issue of domestic violence, but it is what they will let get in the way.  Their rationale will be that they don't deserve protections because of their "sins".  But no one deserves to be abused.  It is assault and battery no matter how you slice it.

It becomes even more obvious when one compares it to their support for child abuse laws.  Why would the GOP support protecting children but not women, illegal immigrants, or the gay/lesbian/transgender community?  Children are innocent, they are to be protected.  It is the honorable thing to do.  But that means that women were not innocent, nor are the rest.  That means they must have done something to deserve the abuse in their minds.  Yet, who deserves to be allowed to be abused?  Child molesters?  Murderers?  Yet, there is no crime that these people have committed worthy of abuse.  For those who are not illegal immigrants, there is no crime committed at all.

They are being condemned and left unprotected because they have exercised their liberty, their choice.  That is the thing the founders fought for with documents like the Declaration of Independence, and their blood on the battlefield.  They did not fight for a theocratic state, they fought for liberty, justice, and the pursuit of happiness.  Homosexuality is not a new 20th century creation.  It has been around for thousands of years, yet the founders did not ban it.  They did not say liberty, justice, and pursuit of happiness for all straight people.  It was for all.

The founders were not perfect by any means.  But they did set a framework in place that understood they were imperfect, but that certain values of liberty and justice should remain in place.  They created a process to address legal imperfections to uphold those values.  That is exactly where the Senate got this right, and the GOP led House has it wrong.

It is irrelevant whether homosexuality is genetic or choice, the founders envisioned a nation where people would have the liberty to do what they wanted so long as it did not infringe on the liberties of others.  There is no reason why the gay, lesbian, and transgender community should be punished for engaging in those very same beliefs... the liberty to do what they want so long as they do not infringe upon the liberties of others.

Some feel the need to proclaim us a "moral" society and admonish immoral acts.  In one sense, laws are just that.  However, our founders set the framework for that moral system by focusing it not on The Bible or religion, but rather on liberty and justice.  They could have determined this to be a theocratic republic (after all, most were religious on some level as most were at the time), yet they chose not to.

This is an issue where all who believe in those values of liberty and justice should support this cause for the simple reason that it puts in place support systems to help people escape situations where others have imposed their will to restrict the liberty of others through domestic violence.  Putting these protections in place is an important step in protecting people and their liberty from those who would use force to harm the liberty of others. 

To use the religion of Christianity or others to condemn those who seek to exercise liberty is both antithetical to those foundational values of America, and un-Christian (can you picture Jesus turning his back on a sinner who was being abused or beaten, say like a prostitute who would have been condemned as immoral at the time?  Me either).

So the question remains, why does the GOP oppose putting supports in place to help end domestic violence?  I still don't understand that reality.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

President Obama and Gay Marriage: Why not?

President Obama came out in personal support of gay marriage, while still leaving action to the states.  It is an important symbolic act but literally changes nothing legally.  It is a politically tough position for him to take in an election year, but something to give him credit for taking the tough position for.  Some pundits are out shouting political calculation on President Obama's part, and one even claiming a political payout, but in an election year where he will amass hundreds of millions again in campaign donations, this is more likely to get religious conservatives to flock out and anti-gay marriage democrats to stay home.  That makes it a courageous decision in an election year.  I have yet to hear a good explanation of how it will benefit him in an election year, but that won't stop people from asserting it.

Having said that, here is my simple stance on this:

My marriage is a covenant between me, my wife, and God. Your marriage, gay or straight, is also between you, your spouse, and God. It isn't my job, in a FREE COUNTRY to limit you, or impose my religious views on you. Some don't want freedom, they want theocracy. God gave me the choice of belief, not the order of obedience. I answer to him, not some religious right nut who may or may not have had relations with a same sex child, or in an airport bathroom with another man, or repeated affairs while spouting morality for everyone else!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

House Republicans Defining Path to the "American Apocalypse"

The new House Republican majority has decided its first significant act will be to pass a bill to repeal health care reform. As this group is trying to define itself, one has to ask what its action means in terms of defining this new House Republican majority.

Think about the act itself. Repealing the Health Care Reform bill in the House will have zero effect on law. Why? With 48 Republicans in the Senate, there is no chance they can get the 60 votes needed to repeal the bill in the Senate, much less override a Presidential veto of the repeal.

So what does the act itself say? It is a symbolic gesture at best. It is meant to be a sign that they passed the repeal of health care reform but the Democrats stopped it. At its core, the act is nothing but a political move. It changes nothing in terms of the lives of you and me. It changes nothing for businesses. It changes nothing for anyone in terms of law.

So why waste the time on it? Simple. The political blame game. It is the game that Americans have fallen into and one that we must get out of if we are to fix our problems. If we reward and promote political gamesmanship instead of finding solutions to our problems, then we will get nothing more than more political gamesmanship and less solutions to our problems.

Think about the election. The focus of the Republican victories was fiscal responsibility. The focus was reigning in the government. The focus was fixing our economy to create jobs.

And the first post election actions? Extend the Bush tax cuts which maintain fiscal irresponsibility and pass a bill in the House that is nothing more than political gamesmanship. At some point, the American people must realize our politicians are now in it for the power and the game and the money. We aren't seeing solutions, we are seeing games not what is being promised.

The result is what David Stockman calls the "American Apocalypse." We need solutions not games. The longer we wait, the worse the ramifications will be for the average American.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Playing the Constitutional Tango with a Conservative

Tonight, I had a conversation on Twitter over the Constitutionality of Social Security with a good friend, @RalphSmorra and some others. While I generally like Ralph, I noticed something that is a pattern for conservatives and often for bad political debaters. They tend to say things like, "do you think the Founding Fathers imagined the use of like it is used today?"

While Ralph is not a "bad debater" generally, and is quite knowledgeable, I have to wonder why he would have thought the founders would have had even the slightest vision of today's world. Do they think the founders divined the Internet or the airplane, and its needs for governing?

Generally speaking, words and their meanings are not locked into cement or a vault that prevents them from evolving to a given time and place. To imagine we knew the original intent and that it would always be the same forever is rather specious to say the least. Heck, I often get bored watching the testosterone fly as people play the "what the founders intended" game as they cite one founder after another as if their views were monolithic instead of a group with various reasons for signing on to the document.

They act as though the constitution was a strict document, stuck in a time and place instead of what it really is: a flexible document that adapts to the test of time and situations.

If it was a strict document that had to be amended every time something changed, they wouldn't have created the Executive emergency powers; they wouldn't have created vague clauses like "provide for the common defense" or "promote the general welfare" which are pretty ambiguous in their phrasing. While conservatives will say the former phrase is carte blanche for all defense needs and means, they will argue the latter must be strictly interpreted by other clauses as they seek to push their views rather than the text of the document.

While each side seeks to re-interpret the Constitution by strict or vague means for their own policy agenda, the sad reality is that too many have never read the document enough to know who is right or wrong, only to follow their dogmatic opinion leaders who seek to make a fast buck and gain power off of their ignorance.

In today's Information Society, take the time to google and read the text of the Constitution. It isn't that hard.

With that said, maybe Ralph would have been better served spending time elsewhere than to claim 70 years of SCOTUS decisions on Social Security were wrong on vague, general terms like "there is no constitutional provision for Social Security."

2011: A Need for Small Business and Economic Balance

Robert Reich's economic prediction for 2011 looks good for corporations and Wall Street, but pretty poor for the rest of us. While Reich may point towards a political agenda, he also hits a pretty obvious point: American economics are out of balance, and the focus on elitism for economics will lead the rest of us poor.

What do I mean? Reagan's "Trickle Down Economics" were designed not to create an elite society separate from others, but rather to restore the balance between all segments of society. Excessive taxation on the upper brackets undermined incentive for investment. At some point, it went too far.

Today, our taxation and regulatory structures have returned us to a time when the rich have all the money, and the poor are left to beg for table scraps (or jobs as it were). American society has bought into the notion that if you free up money for the rich, the rich will create jobs for everyone else. Except, the rich got rich by being frugal, watching their money, and making wise investments. They didn't get rich by throwing money at bad or mediocre investments out of some duty to create jobs for other people.

Politicians have skewed the regulatory and taxation structures in favor of corporations. That has skewed the balance away from the small business. Why is that a problem? Small business drives the economy. Small business pushes innovation. Small business creates new wealth. Small business is the American Dream. Small business is how people get from being a dreamer to living the American Dream. Undermining that small business is how the American Dream is destroyed.

If Americans want to save themselves economically, they must push their politicians for a taxation structure that is balanced, that doesn't favor the rich or corporations but rather maintains the balance between each of us. They must start taking the opportunities to build small businesses instead of focusing on waiting for the rich to create jobs for them. And they must push for net neutrality, which will continue to allow Americans a free and open internet as a forum to build those small businesses from.

In bad economic times people often forget: Economic success stories tend to come from desperation not inspiration. Bad economic times are as good a time as any to build a small business.

Monday, December 6, 2010

An Open Leader to President Obama: Fight For Us

Mr. President,

Last year, you were asked a very pointed question by a woman who wanted you to give us a reason to follow you. You gave her your normal policy answer, but it is now clear you missed the point she was trying to make. You didn't get what she was trying to tell you. The result was the 2010 Election. Mr. President, we need you to lead.

One has to ask why a President who has passed as much significant legislation as you have is viewed so weakly. It is easy to blame the right wing media, but it really isn't about them. President Clinton found a way to get through the Echo Chamber with positive marks, even today. He didn't pass half the landmark legislation you have in two years, so what's going on?

The defining moment was on health care reform. It is where you lost your base and your independents. You told us that we would change Washington. You told us that we could change the world. You told us that things would be different. You told us that we wouldn't be helpless to profit hungry corporations, but we would be given choices to bring them in check. And then you compromised. We didn't get what you told us was the key to all those things: A Public Option.

Health Care Reform was something that could have been passed in two months before Senator Kennedy died with a Public Option. Instead, it dragged on for month after month after month, and you sat on the sideline publicly. I am sure you and the White House was working behind the scenes to make a deal to get it done, but none of us ever saw it. And yes, we looked. The Public Option is where you lost your mojo.

Democrats lost 2010 because of two reasons: You failed to lead them on health care reform and lead the American people through the economic troubles; and the Democrats were so busy reading polls trying to figure things out that they couldn't even take a stand on the most basic of policies of tax cuts before the election. Those two things tell us, the American people, that neither you nor the Democratic Party wants to lead.

As we had to Christmas, we see votes on tax cuts that Democrats know will fail for the sake of taking votes. It would make sense if there was a strategy to get the votes and then use them to publicly pressure Republicans with a PR strategy to get what you want. Instead, we got how you were "disappointed" but that is all you ever get.

Mr. President, maybe you aren't getting it. We want you to lead by fighting for those ideals you put forth in your campaign. They weren't just ideals to be compromised on. That would be the way Washington has always worked. We didn't vote for doing things the same way Washington always has worked. We voted to change how Washington works. You were fired up and ready to go, but we haven't seen you fired up over anything since you took office.

Mr. President, there are defining moments. For President Bush 41, it was raising taxes. For President Reagan, it was telling the Soviet Union to tear down a wall. For President Clinton, it was standing up to Republicans and shutting down the government over Social Security. What will be your defining moment?

You need to pick one and make it. We need you to pick one and fight for it. Whether it is insisting that unemployment benefits and each tax bracket be passed as separate bills to be voted on separately; whether it is a public option; whether it is a new stimulus bill; whether it is deficit reduction; no matter what it is, pick something and fight for us. Show us what is important to you.

Don't be "disappointed." Do something. Fire a shot across the bow. Use your Veto. Spend a week talking about nothing but one issue in strong terms instead of soft policy nuances.

If you want your base back. If you want your independents back. Stand up and fight for us. Stand up and show us how you are making Washington about us, not about deals and compromises. Show us how you are making America better for us and not business as usual.

Until you stand up and fight for us, you may be on your way to being a one term President who will have your accomplishments simply repealed.

The Tea Party gained power not because everyone believed in it. Heck, the platform is hardly coherent. The Tea Party was about the government caring about us and doing things for us instead of business as usual. The Tea Party was nothing more than the far right Ron Paul Libertarians and Paleoconservatives appealing to the independents who voted for you not because they agree in ideology but because you didn't stand up and fight for the things you said you would.

Mr. President, it is time to get off the sidelines. You should have started fighting for us two years ago. But if you don't start now, you will have started too late.

Simply put: Mr. President, Fight For Us.

Fed Trying to Grow Economy, Republicans say Focus on Deficits, Actions say otherwise

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke spoke on the economy in a 60 Minutes interview about the economy, explaining the concern about long term job growth and the need for more economic support to boost the system.

Bernanke explained the Federal Reserve will continue to boost easing efforts because the federal government has sent the signal it will focus on deficit reduction instead of additional stimulatory efforts. By focusing on deficit reduction, the American public can rest assured the job growth outlook will not improve anytime soon. Deficit reduction means policies designed to save money, not to get money flowing through the economy which is what creates jobs.

Bernanke's comments seem to indicate the federal government needs to do more for the recovery, not less. The problem is the deficit has grown so large it is difficult to deal with for most Americans. The numbers are larger than they could have imagined.

It is similar to the Reagan era, where a debt topping $1 trillion was unimaginable. Yet, Reagan's budgets increased the debt 180% in eight years. We got used to it. Similarly, politicians ran on deficit reduction, but did little work to honestly cut it. The insistence on passing tax cuts costing $700 billion for the richest among us indicates the same is true today.

The mistake was made a decade ago, and we will be struggling to overcome it for decades to come. When deficits are run up, they need to be paid off. In 2000, American voters decided they did not want to pay off that debt. They made the choice to take a tax cut and ignore the debt, leaving it for future generations. Today, we have far less flexibility to deal with the economy because of those voting decisions.

We made our bed. Now we have to lay in it.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Tax Deal: What Does It Say About the GOP and To Our Kids?

For many people in America, they can be thankful this holiday season that there is an apparent deal in the works to deal with unemployment benefits and tax cuts. During an economically troubling time, generally speaking, tax increases or cuts of things like unemployment benefits can be economically troubling.

However, it does show somethings that are significant:

First, the claims of focus on the deficit by the Republicans during election season were a token campaign promise at best. They are about to agree to maintain $700 billion in debt for the top bracket of tax cuts, while adding to spending by extending unemployment benefits. Deficits should not be the primary focus during economic troubling times, but it does show the dishonesty of the Republican's approach.

Second, it shows how Republicans think of the richest among us. They have held hostage tax cuts for everyone else and unemployment benefits for those who are unemployed in hard economic times (not lazy people, but people who are simply struggling to find a job). They seem to believe that the rich are struggling too, and that those making over $250k and $1 million per year need lower taxes as much as those who can't find jobs need unemployment benefits to survive. That much is evident as they held up Democrat bills that have renewed unemployment benefits and tax cuts for everyone under both of those levels.

Republicans ran on the idea of all deficits are passing on the costs to future generations for today. I can understand the ideas of running deficits for people to keep them from starving to death and spending the winter on the streets in the cold.

I have to wonder how they explain to their children why they are going to pay $700 billion plus interest on future debt so the richest among us can pay 3% less in taxes.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Just for Fun: 10 Technological Failures

I caught this article detailing the "Top 10 Tech Failures" and thought I would put it here.

There are many reasons for their failures, and they reminded me of some that I saw when I was younger, as well as some I didn't know about. For the tech geeks among us, or simply the trivia geeks, take a look.

There may be a quiz later.

Understanding Technological Advancement

What is the next Facebook Killer? Pete Cashmore writes an interesting article with a pretty good understanding of how technological replacement happens.

Essentially, he argues that technological clones don't overtake something. Diaspora, for example, has sought to be just like Facebook only more private. Yet, it has barely gained any traction for all its efforts. It is too much like Facebook long after Facebook built its base.

Ironically, Cashmore argues Facebook may be the next Google Killer because of the amount of information it has about people in its own databases that Google doesn't necessarily have access to.

The point and reason I focused on this article was simply because I often push the idea that we must build new small businesses. Therefore, I wanted to give people a basic understanding: Business wins because it takes a different angle to do things better.

While Vonage is taking on traditional phone companies by trying to do the same type of thing: create a landline, only cheaper; the major companies went for the cellphones to undermine Vonage by making landlines obsolete.

While power companies are seeking to set up the fight over controlling alternatives to our current energies, they haven't embraced solar or wind power for a simple reason: to embrace it is to give up control over power because you could (and should) be building them on your roofs without them. They want a power source that is more efficient than oil/gas/coal and allows them to control it.

While e-mail certainly hurt mail, what is killing mail is not email but rather Facebook, Text Messages, and more that make the "letter" obsolete. We can now communicate so freely and easily that one has to wonder who writes letters anymore?

Then again, how much more significant is an actual hand written letter when you receive it, than say... a text or a poke?

GOP Holding Middle Class Tax Cuts Hostage for the Rich

As the GOP hold legislative bill after legislative bill hostage, effectively shutting down anything the Democrats can do, it is important to realize what they are creating for you and me. One such important area is in tax cuts where the GOP will be holding our tax rates hostage in order to give the richest Americans their tax cuts, and they are willing to screw the rest of us in order to get it for them.

Now, I don't totally blame the GOP. After all, if my major cash donor was going to take a tax hike, I guess I would stand up for them too. I just wonder what the rest of Republicans are thinking.

One such program is the Making Work Pay tax cut in the Stimulus Bill that is set to expire. It is the tax cut most Americans got from the Obama Administration to give Americans $400 for single people and $800 for married couples. However, the GOP is holding it hostage as well as many other tax benefits that Middle Class Americans normally get.

Half the problem is the amount of lies and disinformation that is out there. Politifact has gone through and done a lot of myth debunking on both sides... take a look and send letters to your congresspeople to deal with the realities of the tax cut debate instead of the myths.

Tom DeLay: The Latest GOP Criminal, The Next GOP Super Hero?

Former GOP House Majority Leader Tom DeLay couldn't avoid justice for committing money laundering under Texas law. There can be no liberal bias claims in this one. There can be no liberal witch hunt in this claim.

Yet, there is no doubt he will join other conservative felons in finding a high paying job for his actions. The conservative code of loyalty for "taking a bullet" for the party runs so strong that it is the major exception in their views on the Rule of Law. Loyalty over ideology.

I doubt that conservatives or liberals really think through what they are voting for, other than a party they believe represents their views more closely than the other. I doubt that conservatives ever really figure out that the people they vote for run on a platform based on the idea that government is corrupt and fails, then they elect them, only to find out their policies failed or were corrupt.

It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Instead of realizing they are electing corrupt failures, they simply cite it as proof that government is horrible, and keep electing the same type of people, only to wonder if the problem can ever be solved.

Then again, as a society, we eat tons of fast food, find out it is killing us slowly through obesity, so we get upset and buy another extra large Big Mac Value Meal.

The problems in society aren't structural. They are us.

Drug Arrests Prove Border Fence was Waste of Money

A recent drug arrest indicates one more reason why a "border fence" was such a joke: Tunnels. The recent tunnels found were a half mile long, as deep as seventy feet below the surface, with light rail to move drugs through.

While the drug debate is another question, I have to admit when I first read the article, the first thing that came to mind was just how meaningless "The Wall" idea was to stop immigration.

Since the beginning of "The Wall" being put in place, I have seen video of people simply walking around it in three feet of water and numerous stories of people tunneling under it, showing how a billion dollar project can be simply a waste of time.

I remember talking about how a "Wall" would simply leave people wanting to illegally immigrate to find other ways of getting here. They said I was overreacting, the wall would work. Apparently, I wasn't.

Until there is more incentive to stay in Mexico than there is to migrate here, no wall, no Coast Guard, no "virtual fence" will keep illegals out. It is really that simple. To prove the point, just look to Canada. With an even more open border, we don't really have a huge Canadian illegal immigration problem do we?

The Left Must Stop "Feeling" and Start Thinking

Someone sent me a link for Alternet today, and while I had seen people post stories from there, I really never read many of their articles. I had a feeling it was a left leaning website, but had some interesting views, but I just never went there... until today that is.

I caught some interesting articles, and some had good points, but one common theme I seemed to find was the notion that the "rich" are "heartless" and corporations lack "compassion" and so on. The constant playing on "feelings" sounds whiny and pathetic honestly.

If your answer is don't cut Social Security because it is heartless... then cut it. If your answer is don't cut Medicare because it isn't compassionate... then cut it. If your answer is don't cut Unemployment Benefits because it is mean... then cut them.

You just have to do better than that. Those may be some of the worst arguments ever. Society can't make good policy decisions based on not being heartless anymore than based on Biblical reasons. Public policy just demands more thought on our part.

Social Security is a good idea not because it shows our heart, but because of a few reasons. First, it is a safety net for those who take risks and encourages risk takers to start new small businesses because they know that even if they fail, they will not be homeless. And those small businesses drive the economy. Second, it is good for business because no one runs a good business with homeless old people begging in front of their businesses. Third, it is good for government and taxes because it means old people don't get arrested for vagrancy and loitering costing taxpayers in jail time. Fourth, it is good for the economy because it doesn't drain consumers paying for their parents, so they can drive the economy in other ways.

Sure, it also has a heart, but that just isn't a good public policy reason for any policy. We need better policies. We need more thought in Washington and less emotionalism. Both sides would be better to learn that.

Friday, November 19, 2010

What Does Ahmed Ghailani's Conviction on 1 of 285 Charges Mean?

The case of Ahmed Ghailani's conviction on a charge of conspiracy to commit terrorism, but acquittal on 284 other charges has created a stir about President Obama's trial of Gitmo detainees in civilian court.

Some Republicans have indicated it is evidence that President Obama made the wrong decision about trying these criminals in civilian instead of military courts. They imply that Ghailani would have been convicted of more charges in a military court.

However, this does create some questions that we need to address as a society:

Do we determine the validity of a court system based on the outcome we want or the process that protects people? Remember, our court system was put in place because our founding fathers believed it was important because in a free society, people had to have the presumption of innocence and the burden of proof should be on the government. They wanted to make sure government did not have too much power to wrongfully imprison people for political outcomes. Were they talking about exactly this type of situation, where it is politically popular for convictions even if someone may be wrongfully charged?

What makes anyone thing military courts would convict at a higher rate than civilian courts? Sure, civilian courts have more rights than military courts, but in a post 9/11 world, does anyone really believe there is a civilian bias to free people charged of terrorists? The case was tried in New York City. Can anyone reasonably believe that New Yorkers have a desire to acquit terrorists? That claim is a bit outside the scope of rational thought, in this writer's opinion.

At some point, people need to move beyond emotionalism and a complete lack of rational thought, and stop buying into mindless talking points, and think about what is being said by talking heads. This may be one of those cases.

Is California on the Verge of Leading the World in Energy Innovation?

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger makes the case that California is leading the way in Green Innovation and Technology. Given that energy problems showed themselves most in California years ago when they had blackout problems due to energy company collusion, it isn't surprising they would rebel and seek to control their energy future.

Many remember the blackouts of California, but few remember the court decision that determined Texas energy companies colluded to create the power shortages. Power companies have been trying to lobby and campaign against alternative energies to stay in power, even promoting myths and unsubstantiated claims to undermine alternatives or scientific evidence. Many have bought into it, but some still remain as staunch advocates for controlling our energy future in sustainable ways.

While the energy revolution going on doesn't take away power from energy companies, it does shift to more sustainable means of powering, and creates new jobs, new technologies, that will be the foundation of a global economy at some point. Some places have required shifts to microgeneration of power on all new homes which will empower people to not pay massive energy companies for power, but not enough at this point.

We will be watching Governor to see if your energy revolution continues and what impact it has globally. However, it certainly has the potential to put California on the cutting edge of global energy technology, which could turn California around yet again to lead America and the world's economy. We will be watching.

Unemployment Benefits or Tax Cuts for the Rich: What does our choice say about us?

Congress is facing a decision about unemployment benefits and tax cuts which may reveal the changing priorities in America.

There is no doubt that unemployment benefits should not last forever. However, the question really is about how to address a large economic downturn that hasn't fully recovered. When almost 10% of Americans are unemployed, and even more are unemployed but outside the system's definition of unemployed, cutting things that prevent consumers from spending is generally a bad thing. Consumer spending drives our economy, so cutting it would hurt businesses, the jobs of other people, and the people who receive the cuts.

The budget deficit does need to be dealt with though. So the things we keep and the things we cut say volumes about us. The tax cuts being fought over are for those making over $250,000 a year currently. Certainly, not in economic trouble. And the debate is over about a 3% increase on the top margin of their taxes, not their entire taxes.

So the question is: Do we prioritize the richest among us or those who need our help the most in an economic downturn?

And what does it say about us when we make this choice?