Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year

Wishing you all a safe and Happy New Year.  In the words of John Lennon and Yoko One, "Let's hope it's a good one, without any fear."

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A Modern Proposal

This morning on Fox News, someone said that there is no way to identify the ideology of a passenger on a plane but that we should continue to identify radical Muslims as jihadist.  We currently do neither, and it's about time we did both.

Since 9/11, we continue to live the ridiculous myth that bombings in the name of Islam, can, have, and will be perpetrated by anyone other than Muslims so we must therefore screen everyone.  This is farcical, unnecessary, and we all know it to be unmitigated bullshit.  Not only does this practice perpetuate the mirage of security, but, in the end, is extremely dangerous.  The latest attempt to blow apart an American airliner is a perfect example of this.  Forget for a moment, that this young man from Nigeria purchased his one-way ticket with cash, had no luggage, or that his father had warned the authorities of his radicalism.  He should have been on anybody's no-fly list because his name is UMAR FAROUK ABDULMUTALLAB!  

Zenaphobic?  No, I'm being pragmatic.  Instead of assuming that all people are interested in, let alone capable of, blowing up Western, Christian, or Jewish things, let's assume that all Muslims are.  Then it remains their problem in clearing their individual names off of any no-fly or border crossing lists.  Although Muslims make up a large, and growing, portion of the worlds' population, their numbers are still more  manageable than an entire planets.  I have friends that are Muslim, and they would have no problem in clearing their names within minutes.  Would these friends be upset with my proposal?  Perhaps, but we can ill afford to worry about such trivialities anymore.  It's time we put an end to "politically correct."      

This practice would also push non-violent Muslims to help fight, what continues to be for many, a reluctant war against some of their own.  Let's put the onus, once and for all, where it belongs.  If the Muslim religion is so peace-loving and humanitarian, and I believe that it is, prove it.  Help us destroy this insidious cancer before it threatens to consume us all.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Elevated Threats

My brother and my oldest son share an absurd and ridiculous similarity with Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the young Nigerian who most recently tried to blow up an airliner bound for Detroit on Christmas Day. All three are on a list called the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment. So are another 550,000 people worldwide. It can make travel a hassle. I suspect that my brother Kevin and my son Sean are on the list because someone in Belfast, or some other part of Northern Ireland, with the last name of Kelly, might have once purchased a scone or some soda bread at an IRA bake sale. Being included on the list doesn't prevent one from flying but it does require some additional explanation at the airport.

Had authorities included the information provided to the U.S. Embassy in Lagos by the suspects father, that his son Umar had developed terrorist tendencies, the young man would have been put on the Terrorist Screening Database and barred from boarding an airplane. It most certainly would have prevented him from being issued a "multi entry visa" from our State Department. Another classic example of the authorities not connecting the dots. For two years, security personnel have known about Abdulmutallab. Thankfully, the "sophisticated explosive device" he had strapped to his leg proved more sophisticated than he himself could manage, and the whole thing went up in smoke. Next time we might not be so lucky.

For years we've been told that these suicide bombers are the product of bad neighborhoods, with little to look forward to in life. So to substantiate their miserable lives, they seek to destroy the lives of others in the name of Islam. Turns out this latest spawn of Mohammed comes from an affluent and influential family. So did Osama bin Laden by the way. In Super Freakonomics, by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, a study that the book sites, claims that "terrorists tend to be drawn from well-educated, middle-class or high-income families." My guess is that killing westerners is a pastime enjoyed by all socioeconomic strata of jihadist.

New restrictions on the flying public will no doubt bubble up from the cauldrons of politically correct bureaucrats. Already international passengers are being told they cannot leave their seats, or touch their carry-on luggage, if they are within an hour from landing at their American destination. For now, U.S. officials are blaming lax security measures at oversees airports. Abdulmutallab boarded the original leg of Flight 253 in Lagos, Nigeria. From an account I read on the internet, "American authorities are still confident they can prevent an active bomber from boarding a plane at a domestic airport." I suspect these are the same American authorities who couldn't, didn't or wouldn't, connect the dots that led to Nidal Malik Hasan killing twelve, and wounding 42, fellow soldiers at Ft. Hood, Texas.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas

....Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Smoke Signals

I quit smoking in March of this year. I had smoked about two packs of cigarettes per day for the last 35 years. I'd had enough. Along with the related health problems, the costs of smoking were becoming too high. For a number of years now, states across this country have been trying to solve their budgetary problems on the lungs of smokers by trying to raise revenue through increased taxes on tobacco products. Here in Michigan, we have the fourth highest cigarette tax in America at $2, plus an additional federal tax of $1.01. At almost $6 per pack, taxes equal at least 50% of the cost of the product. Add it all up and those are costs I can live without, literally, thank you very much.

Smokers are an easy target. Who wants to align themselves with foul smelling, doorway clogging litterbugs who pollute our air and treat our world as their personal ashtray. Certainly not me, nor the do gooders of the Coalition for Fire-Safe Cigarettes brought to you by the National Fire Protection Association or NFPA. The NFPA's mission is to "reduce the worldwide burden of fire and other hazards on the quality of life by providing and advocating consensus codes and standards, research, training and education." Ok, first off, three questions: 1) Who's quality of life are you trying to protect?, 2) Could conservatives be another "hazard" you wish to eliminate?, and 3) Is fire really a burden? And, by the way, what the heck are the oxymoronically named fire-safe cigarettes (FSC's) anyway?

Glad you asked, because beginning on January 1, 2010, Michigan retailers will only be able to sell you fire-safe cigarettes whether or not you want to smoke them. And apparently, we are one of the last states to comply with the wishes of the National Fire Protection Association. New York smokers have been sucking these things down since 2004 (and you thought Governor Paterson, Chuck Schumer, and high taxes were the reason for the mass exodus of the Empire State). FSC's, or lower ignition cigarettes, will extinguish themselves if not inhaled on a frequent enough basis. Why do we need FSC's? Because according to the coalition and the U.S. Fire Administration, a division of the Federal Emergency Management Agency or FEMA, almost 1000 people die every year in house fires caused by higher ignition or "unsafe" cigarettes. You got that right. Almost 500,000 people die every year from smoking related health problems, and yet the coalition wants to save one thousand of them from burning to death in their own homes.

Can you imagine the kinds of fire retardant chemicals necessary to make a cigarette fire-safe? Not to worry. According to a Harvard study, "there were no substantial differences in toxicity when key indicators were measured for fire-safe cigarettes and their conventional counterparts." Despite showing higher levels of poisonous compounds in FSC's, the study concluded that "there is no evidence that these increases affect the already highly toxic nature of cigarette smoke." In other words, why not put more shit into your shit sandwich?

With friends like the Coalition for Fire-Safe Cigarettes looking out for their safety, smokers have fewer enemies. And who are some of the people behind the coalition? Among the usual suspects like the AARP, the American College of Emergency Physicians, and the American Fire Sprinkler Association, there is the Boston Society of Vulcans. The Vulcans, no relation to the Dr. Spock variety, at least I don't think so, are a 501(c)3 non profit organization "focused on empowering people in need through education and support in the area of fire and public safety, prevention and employment into the fire service." Kind of like an ACORN for pyros.

Another partner in the coalition is the Center for Polyurethanes Industry. In their intro, they want us to know that they were formerly known as the Alliance for Polyurethanes Industry. So glad they cleared that one up for us. The scandal that prompted that name change must have been horrific. Anyhoo, the Center promotes the "sustainable growth of the polyurethane industry," and you can bet that the continued manufacture of FSC's will go a long ways towards that effort. In any event, in addition to the above mentioned entities that comprise the coalition, we can all take comfort in the fact that the Tobacco Free Kids are listed as a supporter.

Mind you that the same kind of progressive mentalities and government interventions of the cigarette safety coalition are the same ones which will produce and run Obamacare. Once again, your government is spending massive amounts of money on measures and initiatives that only marginally move the numbers. A near collapse of our economy just so a few American presidents could say they increased home ownership. Billions spent on incentivizing people to buy foreign cars when the American people owned GM and Chrysler. A healthcare program that could further ruin our economy just to insure another 12% of our population. None of this makes sense yet we invariably vote for more. Let's start to recover what we've lost in the process, common sense, come 2010.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Jungle Fever and OPM in Copenhagen

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama sure like to spend the OPM (other people's money). They both have pledged to to put the U.S. taxpayer on the hook for $100 billion annually (that's per year) to support a global fund to pay restitution (read extortion) to African and other developing nations for all the damage we and the rest of the industrialized world have supposedly inflicted on their peoples. Regardless of what you think about this pledge, and I disagree wholeheartedly, how does paying off other countries cool down the earth's temperature?

Help Me Help You

Don't you just love the way politicians think. Even when they try to do the right thing, they invariably return to what they know best and that is usually making everything about themselves. Take Michigan's struggle to compete for the Obama administrations' "Race to The Top" education funds. Michigan stands to receive $400 million in additional Department of Education funds if the Michigan Legislature can agree on a proper mix of school reforms as promoted by President Obama. Ironically it's the Democrats who are dragging their feet on these reforms because their overlords, organized labor, in this case the Michigan Education Association or MEA, disagrees with increasing the number of charter schools or tying teacher pay to student performance.

Nevertheless, a handful of reform minded Democrats led by Rep. Tim Melton (D- Auburn Hills) and Sen. Buzz Thomas (D-Detroit) agree with the required reform measures. Melton, chair of the House Education Committee, has said, "What's been terrible for me the last few years is watching the communities that are most affected by this (failing schools), that are Democratic districts, and Democrats seem to be the ones that don't want to stand up and say enough is enough. Well enough is enough." Unfortunately, their solution to this problem is to raise funds for themselves. The aforementioned lawmakers announced their formation of a political action committee, Michigan Democrats for Education Reform.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Postscript to "As Time Goes Bye"

Last week I wrote about ending my subscription to Time magazine. Today on MSNBC's Morning Joe, I was given further reinforcement for that decision. Time's editor at large, Mark Halperin, in defending President Obama's focus on healthcare rather than unemployment, said "there's nothing he (Obama) can do about jobs that he's not already doing." Rightly so, host Joe Scarborough jumped all over this statement suggesting that it's hard for employers to create jobs when there are more questions then answers regarding how business costs will be affected with Obamacare, cap and trade, and other progressive programs that Obama advocates.

Bend This

Just over a week ago, President Obama scolded Republicans for trying to frighten Americans about the state of the economy. Yesterday, Obama told us that the U. S. will go bankrupt if we don't pass his healthcare legislation. Now who's trying (and succeeding I might add) to scare Americans? Hyperbole aside, America will not go bankrupt if Obamacare fails. On the contrary, its failure and the failure of all the other job killing programs the Obama team has in store for us just might keep us from economic collapse.

Obama continues to site the costs of healthcare as the straw that will break the collective backs of America. I believe, if anything, it will be the skyrocketing cost of government that has the real capacity to do so. Washington keeps talking about bending the cost curve of rising healthcare costs. Not only does Obamacare not do this, it looks as if it would succeed in doing the exact opposite. A cost curve that should immediately take a nosedive is one that looks more like a wall if plotted on a graph, and that is the recent explosion in federal payrolls.

In a USA Today report, the average pay of a federal job is now $71,206. The average pay in the private sector is $40,331. Whiskey, Tango, Foxtrot! In just two years, between 2007 and 2009, the number of employees at the Defense Department earning $150,000 or more, increased from 1,868 to over 10,000. The Department of Transportation had just one employee who made over $170,000 before the recession, now there are 1,690 who do. If these are the figures that the president uses when preparing remarks to the press then he may be right. Given the "Cadillac" healthcare benefits of federal employees on top of Wall Street-like salaries, this very well could bankrupt America.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Unjust Numbers

In You Do The Math, I wrote about our governments attempt in making marginal improvements to U. S. home ownership at a tremendous cost to the taxpayer. Now comes a report out this week from the Treasury Department that only 4% of homeowners who have applied to the government for help with their mortgages have been accepted into the program. 759,058 applied and only 31,382 will receive permanent help in modifying their loans. According to, another 30,650 were rejected summarily for "late payments, too little income, or failure to do paperwork." Ironically, these are the same reasons those same individuals shouldn't have received their troublesome mortgages in the first place. So what's happening with the other 700,000 applicants? Rest assured, the U. S. Treasury has $75 billion to spend on the program so I"m quite comfortable that many of these peoples' dreams will come true.

Speaking of nightmares, both Senator Reid and Speaker Pelosi want some version of Obamacare passed by Christmas. Nancy Pelosi has suggested that passage of such will equate to a "present" for America. That made me think of the Bobby Gaylor song, Stop Giving Me Crap For Christmas. Who else hopes that Nancy, Harry, or Barack aren't our secret Santa? By the way, as of July 2008, there were 304,059,724 people living in America, and despite a clear majority of Americans opposed to Obamacare less than 300 will decide whether we get it or not. That seems fair.

Note to Readers: I will be taking a few days off so don't expect any new posts until next week sometime. Thanks for your patronage.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

As Time Goes Bye

My subscription to Time magazine ends next month after 37 years. I began my subscription to Time as a Junior in high school in 1973 while attending Maur Hill Preparatory Academy in Atchison, Kansas . It was required reading and used as our text book in my current events class with Father Barnabas. We read it cover to cover and were tested on its contents weekly. The kinds of questions that tripped up Governor George Bush in the 2000 presidential campaign, the ones like can you name the leaders of Chechnya, Taiwan, India and Pakistan, would have been answered readily. So why then will I allow my subscription to run out after being a loyal reader for almost four decades? Because Time magazine and I simply grew apart.

I haven't read Time cover to cover for quite some time now. It began to frustrate and bore me, with its increasingly liberal bent, about 10 years ago. Coincidentally, that was about the same time that AOL merged with Time Warner, in 2000, and George Bush was elected as our 43rd president. During that same time period, in addition to me, the magazine has lost nearly one million readers. Today, I much prefer to read things like The Weekly Standard. In any event, Time had by then become a disparate ghost of its original past and its founder Henry Luce. Like Democrats in the 1960's, before their progressive visage of today, Time used to stand for middle-class values and American leadership. Today, for the most part, Times' writers and stories are 180 degrees from what their managing editor said in 1998 on the occasion of the magazine's 75th anniversary. Walter Isaacson said then, "Although our stories often have a strong point of view, we try to make sure they are informed by open-minded reporting rather than partisan biases."

Just to demonstrate how far off the mark today's Time is from that statement, let me share just a couple of examples from their current issue. Under the guise of Business Books, reporter Andrea Sachs reviews three new books about how "frugality is the new chic, and belt tightening is all the rage." All three books demagogue capitalism as the biggest culprit of global warming and the chief enemy to man's survival on earth. Under Briefing, a section called The Skimmer offers another book review by Gilbert Cruz just in time for holiday gift giving. The book, The Moral Underground: How Ordinary Americans Subvert an Unfair Economy, by Lisa Dodson, posits that if this book had been written prior to 2007 we could have staved off economic collapse. How? By providing free and humanitarian services such as "the supervisor who tweaks time cards so that employees can take care of their kids, the school nurse who keeps cots in her office so that students in difficult family situations can catch a few hours sleep, and the doctor who flouts insurance regulations in order to prescribe medicine for an entire household." "For Dodson and her subjects," writes Cruz, "American corporations are amoral entities that continue to build their wealth on the backs of the nation's low-income workers. Helping the less fortunate in this context becomes a form of civil and corporate disobedience." Merry Christmas.

Thanks Time, it was a swell ride. Good bye and good riddance.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Eye On Fly

For my son's thirteenth birthday we decided to visit some friends of ours we know from Pt. Lookout, Michigan, on their farm in Santa Fe (pronounced FEE), Tennessee, about an hour southwest of Nashville. Looking at the newly produced Old Tennessee Settlers To Soldiers Trail guide however I have determined they live closer to Fly, than what the U. S. Post Office says. Fly is just north of Water Valley and Shady Grove, but south of Bethel, Boston, and Leiper's Fork. Perhaps to give you a better idea, the road that connects all the above parallels the more famous Natchez Trace Parkway, an historic trail that provided sustenance, commerce, and an escape route for native American Indians, European traders, Confederate soldiers and settlers. It starts or ends, depending on your perspective, just south of Nashville, and goes all the way to Natchez, Mississippi on the Gulf of Mexico.

This is hill country, where everyone has horses, lots of dogs, some cows, and more than the occasional donkey. This area, situated within Williamson and Maury Counties, is home to many of Nashville's biggest stars including Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, Michael McDonald of Doobie Brothers fame, Keith Urban and wife Nicole Kidman, and the Judds, both Naomi and Wynona. As a matter of fact, Naomi Judd announced the Leiper's Fork Christmas parade yesterday from just a few feet away from where my family and I stood and watched the annual event.

The area is also known for its heavy concentration of antebellum architecture and Civil War battlegrounds including the Battle of Franklin, known in the South as the death knell of the Confederacy or Gettysburg of the West. One of the few night battles of the Civil War, it ended in 7,250 Confederate casualties and 2,326 Union dead and wounded. The Stars and Bars are big around here. So much so, that little Confederate flags were distributed by Confederate army impersonators in the parade we attended. Down here, the Civil War is known as the War of Northern Aggression. You can't swing a dead cat without hitting an historical marker or plaque indicating the site of a significant defeat or humiliation served up by those bastards from the North.

If you're ever down this way, I urge you to take some time to tour the area. Great history, beautiful scenery, terrific Southern hospitality and wonderful people. By the way my friends are looking to downsize and are seeking a buyer for their property. If you're looking for 60 plus acres south of Nashville, in the heart of the Old South, visit

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Unemployment Czar

Despite what happens today at the White House job summit, I can tell you that private sector job growth will not be a top priority. Why? Because aside from our chief executive's job killing policy initiatives like Obamacare, cap and trade, and union expansionism, Michigan's Governor Jennifer Granholm is one of the invited guests. Any serious discussion regarding the economics of creating, attracting, or retaining jobs would not include Governor Granholm. Jennifer Granholm is to job creation what Tiger Woods is to fidelity.

Michigan has the highest unemployment in the nation at just over 15%. Governor Granholm has presided over the biggest decline in the number of jobs and one of the largest emigration rates of a state's population in decades, if not centuries. When she took office in 2003, Michigan's automobile manufacturing had 72% more jobs than it has today. Her answer to all of this has been the Michigan Business Tax, an increase in the personal income tax, and various other increases in taxes and fees. She is kryptonite to economic growth and prosperity.

What I hope the president hears, and follows, will be to reverse course on growing the employment rolls of government, nonprofits, and community organizing, and take the remaining funds from TARP and Stimulus I and put them towards rebuilding our nation's transportation, sanitary, and energy transmission infrastructure. Or he could drop his socialistic tendencies and drop the corporate tax rate from 35% to 15%. If nothing else, 15% is a number Governor Granholm can embrace and be comfortable with.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Executive Decision

Timing is everything. Just as I changed my position on the direction the U.S. should take in the war in Afghanistan, President Obama decides to do the exact opposite and yet I find myself in agreement with him and support his decision. Not hard to do really, since a month earlier I had been of the same opinion. Which goes to show that the war in Afghanistan remains a conundrum to me, and others as well, so I will henceforth refrain from opining on it anymore. At least until July 2011.

Tuesday night's speech by President Obama may have upset many of his most ardent supporters, but I thought it was his most presidential to date. In fact, what was really strange about the speech was that most of it could have been delivered by President George W. Bush. Which, in turn, is exactly why many of Obama's most ardent supporters are upset.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Reversal of Fortune

The waiting is over. The orders have been given. Tonight comes the explanation. Just over one hundred days have gone by since Gen. Stanley McChrystal presented President Obama with an assessment of the progress of the war in Afghanistan and his subsequent request for 40,000 additional troops. He will get them. Perhaps not in the numbers requested, and perhaps not for the duration required, but make no mistake about it President Obama plans to escalate the war against the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan before he calls it quits.

As he should, if you agree with him that Afghanistan is the "good war" and "a war of necessity." Many conservatives and Republicans do too. But he shouldn't commit additional numbers of young people to fight a war many believe to be unwinnable just because he feels bound by his previous words. And neither should I. So despite what I wrote over a month ago in How Not to Fight a War, I am of the opinion that we should leave the quagmire that has become Afghanistan and return home to fight another day. And there will be another day, probably sooner rather than later.

Why the change of heart? Why would I be in agreement with the likes of The Nation's Chris Hayes, or Bob Herbert of the New York Times, who both agree any escalation is a tragic mistake? Just to be contrary to Barack Obama? Whatever he thinks I must do the opposite? No, but it is disconcerting to find myself in agreement with the antiwar crowd in the progressive wing of the Democrat party. But unlike them, I do think some wars are good and most are extremely necessary. Just not this one (or at least the current iteration), and neither was the one in Iraq, but for vastly different reasons then they would espouse.

I disagree that we should commit more troops to Afghanistan and extend our presence there because there are too many forces working against a successful outcome and the biggest one is that no one can define what is a successful outcome. What is the end game? Al Qaeda on the run? The Taliban in retreat? Both are already partly true. Al Qaeda is mainly where we are not, and the Taliban only needs to solidify it's control of Pakistan before they cede Afghanistan entirely for their production of opium. Is it to stand up a democratically elected government? Did I mention how odd it feels to be in agreement with Bob Herbert?

There also remains the unwavering ambivalence of Barack Obama to wage a serious war against Islamic extremists. Up until now his harshest words have been reserved for his critics and couples who crash his parties. He has demonstrated more conviction in defending the rights of those who propagated 9/11 than in defending American interests abroad. His parties leaders, like Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, will do their best to thwart appropriations vital to the war effort. A growing number of American citizens, consumed by their own troubles at home, have become less willing to sacrifice their offspring and pay forward any attempts to implant peace in a part of the globe that has alluded such for centuries.

That being said, without the solid convictions of our president, members of Congress, and the American people, backed by the unlimited access to our treasury for the resources necessary to fully protect and support our soldiers, then I suggest we cease the further prosecution of this war and bring our men and women home with the greatest speed possible.