Monday, March 28, 2005

Progressive Thinking An Oxymoron

The morning paper always brings indications that the Neo-Marxists, now called Progressives, simply don’t understand economics, politics, or people. They continue their attacks on that moron in the White House, without actually specifically describing his failures and attributing his successes to the invisible and not so invisible puppet-masters. But their lack of thinking and understanding go far beyond this because they simply cannot give up their commitment to individual “rights”. Among these rights we find the right to hold a job – not any job but a job that pays a “living wage”. Presumably what this means is that these narco-illiterates must be given jobs that allow them to continue supporting their various offspring, keep up their child support, maintain their drug habits, and keep a roof over their heads. Therefore, it is time to raise the minimum wage apparently on the assumption that these minimum wage jobs should allow for the foregoing.

Then we find the right to an education. Of course for most of us taxpayers, we think that this right already exists. The public schools are available to everyone but of course you have to actually attend the classes. These means getting up early, catching the bus, going to class, and actually listening to what is being taught and of course – doing the work. Unfortunately, that four letter word “work” keeps appearing and those people, who were raised on the progressive ideas of entitlement, work never enters the equation. After all – what was the purpose of affirmative action? The whole idea was to provide the “minorities” with an equal opportunity to get an education at a prestigious university, without actually doing all of the work to either get there or stay there. Fortunately the alarm has been sounded within the minority community and while the progressives continue to beat the drum of racism it is sounding more and more like a dirge and less and less like a call to arms.

But to return to the morning paper, we find that the union movement is spending most of its time and money on political causes – causes generally not supported by the membership – and less and less on organization and recruiting. Naturally the real issue here is the anti-labor Republicans are in power and everything must be done to return the progressives to power. However, when you read the fine print, it seems that the overly generous benefits garnered by the unions, is killing jobs. It seems that the UAW members pay only 7% of their healthcare costs while the average American pays 32%. The Japanese auto manufacturers have approximately $1400 in profit in each vehicle with $400 going to healthcare. General Motors has only $700 in profit in each vehicle with $1000 going to healthcare. Of course nothing is said about the featherbedding and counterproductive union rules that keep excess employees and slow down the manufacturing process and even less is said about the declining membership which is driven by the declining number of jobs.

The progressives cannot give up their idea of rights and the responsibility of the government to redistribute wealth more equitably. Essentially these neo-Marxists, which is what they are, think that those people who worked hard, who attended school, who got an education or training that prepared them for the workforce, are obligated to share what they earn with the “less fortunate.” How I hate that term because the implication is that those who worked hard some how “got lucky” and got a good high paying job, while those who slacked off in school, who failed to get an education, who had multiple children they couldn’t afford, and who are too lazy to fix the situation, deserve to share in the wealth generated by the hard worker. This idea of wealth redistribution is called ‘progressive taxation (ironic or honest terminology -??)” and masquerades under the banner of “equality”. Of course the actual term is “egalitarianism`” which is the cornerstone of Marxism, but the Progressives really expect to take your money and redistribute it, not theirs. They are truly the embodiment of Orwell’s Animal Farm – where some Pigs are more equal than others.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

It's Back To Work For The French

In today's paper I ran across a survey conducted by France for the EU that shows the hardest working people in the world are the Koreans with the US worker lagging behind in fifth place. The thrust of the article is to demonstrate that in spite of the high unemployment rate, their socialist economy, their 35 hour work week, their declining standard of living, and the declining level of investment, the French are truly among the hardest working people in world. Of course we all know the EU wouldn't say or do anything that would make them look better than the US, but it is worth noting that this metric is in hours worked not in GDP or productivity. The implication is that the more hours you work the more productive you are, which of course would probably make the Masai Herdsmen among the most productive workers in the world since they do little else but herd cattle. This same article points out that the French are being forced into extending their work week to a horrific 39 hours. It seems that the plan had been to reduce the work week to 35 hours which would force employers to hire more people, but the law of unintended consequences took effect and employers simply froze salaries, stopped hiring, and spread the work to the current employees, which resulted in soaring unemployment and a declining standard of living. But the French would have you believe that they are working like little beavers, that the hours worked or more important than what is done in those hours, and the French Socialist Programs just need a little tweaking. The idea of increasing their productivity isn't mentioned as part of the solution. This same article shows the Danes work almost as hard as the Americans. Well I have observed the Danes hard at work as part of a factory tour. I was one of two Americans on this tour and we were both appalled by what we saw. We could have reduced their headcount by at least 50% and increased their productivity by at least that much without doing any further investigation. However, we were told that the objective was not individual productivity but EMPLOYMENT. The objective was to keep as many people employed as possible, not to turn out more product. This is the prevalent attitude throughout Europe. They prefer to live the good life without working too hard.

Another article showed that the highly vaunted Canadian Healthcare system is failing -- if not already failed. The liberal press isn't exactly shouting this from the roof tops but it seems appointments for critical tests, like catscans, make take 3 months or more, that surgical procedures may require a lead time of as much as 3 years. In the meantime Canadian citizens are paying 48% income taxes and this may have to increase. Plus with the current trends as much as 85% of the National Revenue will have to go into their national healthcare system. The result is that people who really need medical attention are having to pay for the services out-of-pocket. When the decisison is to pay on their own, many opt to come to the US for treatment. It seems to me that not too long ago it was Hillary supported by the liberal press who were pressing for a national healthcare system modeled after Canada's. The liberals just can't seem to understand that Socialism is dead! D.E.D -- dead. Governments, any government, can do very few things efficiently and should never be relied upon to solve any problem beyond national defense.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Science -- Scmience

Usually I am slamming the liberal media and the lunatic left in Calif, but have you noticed how politicized the NIH and CDC have become. Ironically these organizations have been stuffed with left leaning, Harvard educated, progressives who now seem to be in bed with "big business" in the form of the drug companies. These progressives are so intent on running everyone's life that they have sacrificed their principles regarding the evils of profit and are working hand-in-glove with the drug companies. What on Earth am I talking about - you ask? Well I am speaking of the "epidemic" of diabetes and obesity, cholesterol, and finally that supreme evil -- tobacco.

Why has diabetes suddenly become an epidemic? I'll bet everyone reading this has recently had his doctor tell him/her that they are diabetic and need medication to "control" it. Well the reason for this epidemic is that the NIH has LOWERED the threshold for diabetes. So suddenly thousands more people now have to take medications cleverly sold by those evil drug companies. It also gives the progressives another reason to police our food and insist we stop eating anything THEY deem is bad for us. How about obesity? Everyday we see pictures of overweight people on the (liberal) news as they lecture us on how our children are all overweight and we need to take everything kids like to eat out of the schools and replace it with carrot sticks. What goes unsaid is that the measure for obesity has been changed by the government (NIH, CDC). Now virtually all of the NFL and NBA athletes are overweight -- obese by definition --plus the majority of Americans are obese and need to stop eating fattening (fast) foods. The solution in the view of the progressives is that we need to immediately ban McDonalds, all fast food, soda, and anything the food police feel is bad for us. HOWEVER, this doesn't include wine which the progressive left has managed to declare HEALTHY. Of course the only difference between wine and grape juice is the alcohol so technically grape juice should do the trick but then grape juice is too sugary and therefore, bad for all of you diabetics. It is OK to be an alcoholic but not to be a FAT alcoholic.

Then we have cholesterol. Not too many years ago the count was 220 as normal but this was the average for most Americans so the drug companies needed more sales. The government accommodated by lowering the threshold and sales went up. They lowered the threshold again and sales went up even more. They have justified this on the basis of a statistical study showing the "relationship" between diet, cholesterol, and heart disease. Of course anything can be proven statistically, the studies actually show that diet has only a minimal impact on cholesterol, and that cholesterol levels below 200 show a strong correlation to colon cancer. A small fact that generally goes unmentioned but then sales are up. Besides there is no drug available to cure colon cancer so why bother with statistics?

And finally tobacco and all of those "tobacco related deaths", which of course are all statistical. The actual report on side smoke written by the EPA is over 1000 pages ( I have read every single page and it was pure torture) and states that the studies DO NOT REACH STATISTICAL SIGNIFICANCE. This is actually stated in the report and discussions with the author (conducted by my wife with the author of the report) elicited the comment that there is no science behind the conclusions because it is just a SOCIAL PROGRAM. One of the studies used to justify the correlation between tobacco smoke and cancer was the "Hamster Study". In this study the Hamsters were exposed to smoke over an extended period but those hamsters DIDN'T develop cancer as they should have. However, the "scientists" conducting the study decided that "had the hamsters breathed properly they WOULD have developed cancer". Therefore, this study was used to support the (obviously prior) conclusion even though the hamsters didn't actually develop cancer. There were other studies similar to this one that were flawed even to the most untrained eye, but then how many people have actually read the EPA study? We were unable to find anyone in the press or in the government who actually read the report even though they were quick to cite it in support of their right to strip smokers of their rights.

Now I am not a smoker, but it seems to me that a lot of rights of smokers have been taken away because a few wine sipping progressives don't like smokers. To belabor this report further, notice that the number of smokers has declined dramatically but the incidence of cancer and heart disease has not changed. Furthermore, there has never been a death certificate written that says a person died from tobacco smoke.

Everything is "related" and now that "cause - effect" relationship is being applied to food as the progressives launch their attack on McDonalds and make no mistake that is their target -- not you or your health. The time has come for everyone to demand that science be returned to the decision making process and that the voodoo "science" called "Epidemiology" be eliminated.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Can We Talk?

Well I guess I have always known that education has nothing to do with intelligence and that a person can have multiple degrees and still not be able to pour soup from a bowl with the instructions on the bottom. After all just look at that flower power reject with a PhD -- Ward Churchill – at the University of Colorado. He obviously has been able to prosper without ever actually having a job or learning anything meaningful about America or American Society. So in my defense I have actually had a job (several actually) that required me to control my budget and earn more than I spent. I have been able to earn some rather impressive certificates that hang on my wall while doing this. But unfortunately I still fall into the category of people – mostly men -- who are brilliant on the outside but dumb as dirt inside – at least according to my wife who is convinced I am not only dumb as a rock but unable to communicate even the simplest thought. . Naturally I deny this allegation while seemingly doing everything I can to corroborate it – but then I am a brilliant manager, leader of men, author, and all around deep thinker, so I can’t be expected to master all of the petty details of everyday living and to communicate with any clarity to those who simply don’t understand what I am saying.

This reflection on my ability to communicate all began with a simple request from my wife who wasn’t feeling well and asked me to prepare dinner. Something I have done in the past with results ranging from WOW to “what on Earth is THAT???” But I am always up for a challenge so I agreed to prepare dinner. It seems that the menu called for us to have London Broil but there was only one (large) available, so my wife, languishing on the couch like the final act of La Boheme, instructs me to cut it in half. Now before we go on – ask yourself – what would YOU have done given that simple request? If you are a man you probably would have reacted like I did. I simply took the cleaver and whacked the steak in half as neatly as if I had used the Guillotine, plunked it under the broiler and went on to step two – the rest of the meal, which to me means – the potatoes. Now I should point out that there is nothing in life that my wife and I agree on, especially our food. When we were first married I accused her of confusing seasoning food with cooking in the same room as the spice rack. But then we were young and I hadn’t yet learned the cardinal rule of marriage which is “you’re wrong!” – accept it. But to my point, she likes her meat rare – very rare – dare I say disgusting-- while I like mine done – crunchy even. So when I served my dinner of steak and potatoes I was confronted with gales of laughter – confusing to me because I thought I had done a pretty good job. But Au contraire , it seems the steak should have been cut horizontally into two smaller steaks, not whacked in half as if it were a cantaloupe. This prompted an immediate telephone call to our daughter so that the two of them could laugh about the complete ignorance of the male sex and their general lack of commonsense. It also provided the opportunity to discuss communication and the almost total lack of the sexes to communicate with each other.

Of course any man who has been married for longer than it takes to get to the end of aisle, knows communication between husbands and wives is actually a rather simple affair and there are certain communication rituals, which are learned early if the marriage is to get off the ground. The proper answers are – in no particular order:
Yes dear
No dear
Of course I love you
You do not look fat!
I don’t mind going shopping with you

Of course the last item is said with a smile while inside you’re thinking I would rather have my fingernails pulled out by a hungry Tasmanian Devil than shop for anything other than a new computer or really big TV. But for some obscure reason women insist that their husbands accompany them on these excursions to the supermarket.

Have you noticed that in the supermarket the men fall into specific groups. You have the single man shopping for himself. He is easy to spot because his basket is only partially filled and what’s there consists of various types of chips, soda pop, frozen pizza, a few frozen dinners, and maybe some bread and lunch meat. The emphasis is on speed and convenience without regard for nutrition. Then there are the married guys. These are the ones standing around with one hand on the cart staring off into space clearly wishing they were home watching curling or badminton, waiting for their wives to examine every single item in the aisle while searching through a stack of coupons. You feel their pain and can see that they have reached an out-of-body state bordering on comatose. Now everyone knows that shopping has to be done and that food has to be purchased and placed into the refrigerator, but why does that have to involve the husband? I asked my wife that because clearly neither I nor any of the other men I see in the market are doing anything other standing around staring into space. Her response to this question was “Training – all of you guys need training and all of us women are determined you are going to understand how hard our job is - so stay alert!” See – it’s all in the communication!

But as every man knows there are a lot of adjustments in a marriage. You get used to the idea that there are her things, our things but there are no “my things” other than your underwear and toothbrush. But it is the little things that act like grit in an otherwise smooth running machine, like the tooth paste. For example after years of arguing over the toothpaste and how it should be maintained, we now each have our own tube of toothpaste, which is zealously guarded. Mine is neat and trim while hers is squished and disgusting. I spent years in the Army and that training stays with you and to this day I can sleep in a bed without touching anything. When I get up the bed is almost undisturbed. In fact, I cannot sleep comfortably in a bed that is not tucked in. My wife on the other hand can get into a king sized bed and within 3 seconds can turn the entire bed into a mound of material that looks like the remains of a Laundromat after it was hit by a tornado. But we adjust – we all adjust to the little foibles of our mates – for example--it was my wife’s birthday.

Having already experienced the aftermath of several forgetful events I had learned that certain gift giving occasions have a great deal of meaning to women and birthdays are one of them. So on this particular birthday I was brimming with pride because I not only had remembered I had purchased a nice personal gift AND a card, plus a card from the children. But as the evening wore on my darling wife became less and less communicative and finally burst into tears. After some coaxing it seems that while I thought I had hit a home run I had in fact struck out because there was NO BIRTHDAY CAKE. Horrors! How could I be so callous and forgetful – unfortunately it was now almost 9 PM and all of the stores were closed except the nearby supermarket. I dashed out of the house and raced to the market determined to bring harmony back to our little home. But the market was closing and after some desperate pleading on my part, I was able to make ONE purchase but the bakery only had two cakes available. So I purchased one and dashed home – triumphant – bearing my cake like tribute to Caesar.

Well my wife opened the box and there it was – a beautiful white birthday cake suitably decorated with flowers and spring flowers at that. I was bursting with pride as if I had just slain the Dragon and saved my little Princess from durance vile. However, there was no joy in Mudville for I had once again struck out. My wife looks at the cake and ignoring my triumphant look once again bursts into tears and between sobs points to the offending cake and says “It says Happy Birthday Amy. Who is Amy?” “Well of course it says Amy” – I reply with all of my masculine logic – “what did you expect? That’s the only birthday cake they had – the other cake said Happy Anniversary Mom and Dad”. Well that stunning logic sort of brought the conversation to a halt and after a moment of reflection on my dedication and overall rising to the moment we were able to laugh and put it into perspective and since that time every birthday cake in our family says “Happy Birthday Amy”.

So in spite of everything the politically correct can do, the fact is that men and women are different. In spite of those who think they should be alike I think most people – especially those who have been married for a while – are glad of these differences because it brings spice and perspective. It is these little challenges and adjustments that make each day an adventure. Excuse me now, because I have to go and explain that the printer works best when the little light is on. It indicates that the power is turned on.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

SecDef or SecDum?

You really begin to wonder how this country is able to attract even the weakest, dumbest, and shallowest people into public service considering how they are treated by media. It is unlikely even Caesar’s wife could withstand the scrutiny. From the time their name enters the realm of possibility their background, associates, bank accounts, personal lives, tax records, and any and all aspects of their lives both public and private are combed through from birth. When confronted with the question if they (the media) could withstand that sort of investigation, they always reply with the smarmy phrase “I’m not running for office” or “the public has a right to know”. I have noticed that the public’s right to know stops short of impacting any left leaning activist, traitor , anti-capitalist, or anti-American.

The latest example of the public’s right to know, as envisioned by the New York Times, are the recent candidates for judgeships. It seems that one of them “horrors!!” failed to pay his dues to the Bar Association on time. Certainly that is a crime worth preventing an otherwise qualified candidate from being accepted and confirmed – but then he was nominated by that puppet of the Christian Evangelical’s – George Bush. Another candidate has had several of his decisions reversed, which proves that he not only doesn’t understand the law or constitution, he isn’t qualified to sit on the bench. Pardon me – you would think that if this were a criteria for demonstrating competence the NYT would have noticed the Ninth Circuit Court in California. That illustrious set of judges has been reversed so often you expect them to back into their courtroom. But then they really aren’t judges at all, they are the newest legislative arm of he liberal left supported by the liberal media – like the NYT—who view the Supreme Court as the incompetent ones because the Ninth Circuit has it right.

Now we are treated to the latest attack on SecDef Rumsfeld for his efforts to remold the American Military into a fighting force capable of fighting future wars. As I recall, the military has been attacked since the founding of the country for organizing to fight the last war better rather than organizing to fight the next war. Now, Rumfeld – demonstrating once again his total failure to listen to the liberal left or to heed the sage advice of the NYT, has the temerity to announce that he is reorganizing the military into a Netcentric fighting force, dependent on special forces, and capable of fighting the wars of the future. Wars that are fought by invisible enemies, enemies who don’t wear uniforms, who creep and crawl among those who hate the United States (read Ward Churchill, Jane Fonda, most of Hollywood, and the NYT) and who attack innocent civilians. Of course, those liberals who attack the President and SecDef Rumsfeld are quite open in their belief that there are no “innocent civilians” especially if they are Americans.

If this weren’t bad enough we find that Rumsfeld is being sued and attacked for “torturing” the prisoners in Cuba and violating the Geneva Convention. Pardon me but I guess there have been changes to the rules of engagement since I was in the military. I was always told that if you were caught in civilian clothes you could be summarily shot as a spy. It was necessary that you always have some segment of your uniform on your body even if it was worn under other clothing. These were the rules and to my knowledge these were the rules used by General George Washington when he hung Major Andre, who was caught out of uniform. Now let me see—exactly how many “insurgents” were caught wearing a uniform and don’t tell me they are too poor because the rules are a “uniform” can be as simple as an armband or kerchief, but they have to be worn as a method of identification. So how many of these simple Muslim peasants were caught in uniform – would NONE work for you? As far as I am concerned they could be and should be shot – that would eliminate the issue of torture.

But lets see, it really isn’t the Americans who are torturing these simple peace loving Muslim peasants who simply want the US to leave them alone (to torture, rape, and pillage is left unsaid by the critics), it is people in foreign countries and it was the CIA who turned them over to be tortured. However, that sort of puts the Americans into a dilemma because these are the prisoners that have been returned to their home countries, who merrily question them using the same techniques that they use on everyone. Well – the Americans shouldn’t have done that – well what should we have done? – freed them, given them political asylum, rearmed them, and wished them well in their peaceful pursuit of paradise? The entire situation is nothing short of contrived for the sole purpose of attacking the President and SecDef Rumsfeld.

It is a miracle that SecDef Runsfeld hasn’t just thrown in the sponge and walked off. The constant criticism must take its toll. We are lucky to have people like him and it is unfortunate that we have people like those who run the NYT and who teach in our universities.

Friday, March 11, 2005


So the media is falling all over itself bidding Dan Rather a fond farewell and remembering all of his contributions to journalism. Pardon me if I don't join in this effusive praise-fest. I am old enough to remember how the media acted during the Viet Nam War. Maybe I am over sensitive to the one-sided reporting and the distortions that passed for news. This doesn't excuse the disgraceful conduct of the administration, but it is worth remembering that it was Jack Kennedy that got us into that mess, that it was Harry Truman who formulated the concept of a “limited war”, and that it was Lyndon Johnson who mismanaged the conflict. During this entire period Cronkite, Rather, Jennings, and the rest of the media spun the news as negatively as possible and eventually laying the blame at the doorstep of Nixon -- who was evil personified. After all they couldn't pin responsibility on a democrat or do anything to tarnish the image of the deified Jack Kennedy. The entire concept of a “limited war” is ludicrous just as establishing “world peace” is a goal that is equivalent to solving “world hunger”. The media – especially the liberal media (is that a redundancy?) devote a great deal of energy demonstrating how evil capitalism is, how wrong big business is, and that Americans simply don't understand our rightful place is to stand hat in hand while the international community picks our pockets. All of this spin started with Viet Nam when the media decided they got better ratings attacking the military and the country rather than defending it.

Once they got away with that, they came to realize that there was no one there to oppose them and that they could report the news in such a way they could influence events and public opinion. From that point the news became less and less reliable and the various pundits gradually turned the networks into propaganda machines. I stopped watching CBS following Dan Rather’s attack on George H W Bush who was Vice President of the United States. He was appallingly disrespectful and Bush made mincemeat out of him because Bush new what Rather had in mind and insisted on the interview being live. That prevented Rather from spinning the interview and Bush came off looking like a gentleman and Rather came off looking like a democratic attack dog – which as it turns out – he was! I never watched CBS again and eventually stopped watching all of the networks because of their very obvious liberal bias. So goodbye Dan Rather – and hopefully you will have the grace to shut up unlike your colleague Walter Cronkite.

And this brings me to the United Nations. Talk about a totally worthless organization – this is an organization that has not successfully accomplished anything. It is dominated by Thugocracies and staffed by incredibly corrupt politicians but since most of these “diplomats” are relatives of the Thugs why does it surprise anyone that they are corrupt? That is the way they operate in their countries so their place in the UN simply gives them access to more opportunities to steal and as it turns out – rape as well. Of course all of this is done using American money while spending most of their time attacking the United States. Kofi Annan is only the tip of the iceberg and the appointment of Bolton as the new Ambassador to the UN should send a message to the UN that they had better get their act together because Bush won’t tolerate business as usual and Bolton has already stated that the UN is useless.

Has anyone noticed that perhaps President Bush is right and that his speeches and actions are having an impact worldwide? Even the Europeans are reluctantly beginning to tone down their criticisms. They haven’t reached the point of actually acknowledging that his foreign policy is working but it is hard to ignore the facts. There are demonstrations in Kuwait demanding more freedom and suffrage for women, demonstrations for free elections in Lebanon, free elections scheduled in Egypt with actual opponents, elections – albeit small ones – in Saudi Arabia. He has forced North Korean into the background and off of the front pages and delivered a message that they are a problem in the far east and that the Asian countries must deal with them not the US. He has successfully conducted free elections in Iraq and it is clear that situation is slowly coming under control. So with what appears to be vindication on the international stage, the media is turning to domestic policy and attempting to roast Bush on that.

Well he is certainly more vulnerable on the domestic side, but then there are a lot of things that never seem to get reported. For example – why is social security in trouble? Millions of Americans have been paying into it for a lot of years. So what happened to the money that was placed in that trust fund? Well if you or I had handled a trust fund placed in our care like the Congress handled the trust fund put in their care, we would be in jail. The Congress simply spent the money. In effect they took the money and left IOU’s so now all of the money is gone and all that is left is – well zip – nothing is left but IOU’s and a lot of hand wringing. The time has come to pay the piper and the Congress is split – with the Democrats – who merrily spent most of the money saying there isn’t a problem. They are especially opposed to “privatization”, which has never actually been described so no one really knows what that means. However, it doesn't take a genius to figure out that the result will be less money for Congress to spend. Worse, if the people are allowed to keep part of their money in private investments, no only does Congress not get the money upfront, they can't get their hands on it after death because those funds become part of the person’s estate. Currently, many people die before being able to file for benefits and ALL of their money stays in the trust fund and thus is money that Congress can spend elsewhere.

So where does Congress spend all of this money? There is constant whining and complaining about not enough money for education, for roads, for health, etc. Hmmm – it seems to me Congress just sent a billion to Asia for Tsunami aid. Let me see, exactly how much money did those countries send to the US when Florida got leveled by Hurricanes? What about the millions in aid that has gone to Palestine? Aren’t they the ones who are murdering innocent people in Israel? How about the millions that are going into aid to Africa to fight AIDS? In fact how about the millions going to fight AIDs in general. Isn’t AID’s the result of poor decision making? My point is that Congress has pillaged Social Security and the Treasury to send money overseas to support causes and governments that do nothing for the US, while denying money and support to situations in the US that desperately need attention. President Bush is being attacked for his spending policies but no one seems to care -- the media in particular -- that the President can't spend ten cents -- Congress controls the purse strings and all the President can do is recommend what he thinks needs to be funded, but it is Congress that has the final say so if the President's deficit spending plans are bad -- all Congress has to do is not fund them.

Where is the media on these issues? Has anyone ever heard any person in the media call for an end of support for foreign aid or support for the UN? There is a constant hue and cry about the budget but the congressional response is more taxes not less spending -- and they control both -- so why don't they just cut back and tell the President to stuff it? Has anyone heard any of the politicians call for an end to the rape of the “trust fund” called Social Security? I didn't think so. The new mantra is we need a “usage tax”, which is another name for a national sales tax. Of course it is being touted as a replacement for the federal income tax, but the income tax would be phased out while the sales tax would be immediate. Of course the track record of Congress is that once a tax is in place it never goes away so we can look forward to the income tax AND a sales tax. We need tax reform but we need Congressional reform more.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Past My Expiration Date

As much as I am loathe to admit it, I am definitely past my expiration date because I am finding it more and more difficult to simply function at the same speed and with the same understanding as everyone else. For example, I was able to master Starbucks – well not master perhaps but certainly able to cope with the numerous types of coffee but no just plain old regular coffee. I accepted this as a brilliant marketing ploy that allowed some very smart young entrepreneur to squeeze $3.00 extra for a fifty cent cup of coffee. I was even able to accept such things as Hazel Nut, Vanilla, and Blueberry coffee, but this week I realized that I was slipping far behind those in the know.

I went to order my breakfast of a High Fibre, Carrot laden, Coconut laced, Raisin filled Bran Muffin and Coffee at one of the low cost low service restaurant / kiosks in California, when the clerk/waitress stumped me with “Whaddya want-- Light. Medium, or Dark? I had no idea what she was asking and must have looked like some refugee from the dark hinterlands known as the “Flyovers” – which of course I was. In any event before, I could summon my wits and respond she seized the moment – obviously recognizing my confusion and saved the day by saying – “the Roast – the Roast – whatkinda roast ya want? I responded that I wanted coffee then realized she was referring to the coffee beans, but then I still had no idea about how to respond, because I have no idea regarding how I prefer my beans roasted. Usually I just open a can of coffee and proceed from there, but now I realize that I am not just old fashioned, I am downright primal and totally devoid of any of the refinements currently associated with being a member of the sophisticated class. So I bowed my head and mumbled – medium – obviously the pathway selected by the indecisive and those unable to discern the difference between roasts or coffee’s.

But this isn’t the first time that I have been totally stumped in the decision department. Have you tried to buy orange juice recently? When I was a kid I simply produced my nickel for the milk monitor and he / she gave me my bottle of orange juice. Later as an adult I would buy containers of orange juice but then I had to decide between “from concentrate” or --- well they never said – it was either from concentrate or it was that same old stuff you used to buy. But recently I went to buy orange juice and was confronted with no pulp, some pulp, lots of pulp, with Calcium, Heart Healthy, and I lost track at that point but fortunately there was a young man there stocking the orange juice, so I asked him where the regular orange juice was. He stared at me for a moment in wide-eyed wonder – laughed hysterically and went back to his duties. Presumably regular orange juice like regular coffee no longer exists.

Up to this point my experiences could be written off to my general lack of involvement in contemporary shopping. After all I don’t live in the environs of Starbucks and I rarely shop for anything unless you call a drive-through meal – shopping. But the end of my innocence came with the new microwave. Having been involved in computers and computer technology since there were such things as computers, I regard myself as reasonably knowledgeable in things technical. Still I knew the day would come when machines would know more than me and out new microwave definitely falls into this category. I’m accustomed to machines that are essentially binary – they are either “on” or they are “off”. Of course with the new technology we added things to them like clocks. So then we had machines that were either on or off and blinked 12:00, in sort of a Zen like reminder that life is passing you by while you read the instructions on how to set the time.

But I digress – the new microwave came with several buttons that seem to have meaning to the machine but are confusing to me. For example – there is a “breakfast” button. Now I know what breakfast means, it is a meal that I eat – usually in the morning but what does “breakfast” mean to the microwave? Suppose it is noon, do I push the “lunch” button if I am having a frozen waffle or do I push the “breakfast” button. What about Bagel’s? Is a Bagel a breakfast button or a lunch button? What happens if I push the wrong button? Will the machine not work or perhaps flash some weird message like “Chaos reigns within. Reflect, repent, restart and order shall return”. Or perhaps “Three things are certain Death, Taxes, and Failure to push the right button. Guess which has occurred.”

So there it is – the age of the intelligent machine has arrived. We are surrounded by robots and have been for some time. After all they turn on my lights, open my garage door, turn on the coffee pot, turn things off but gradually they are gaining the upper hand. They now decide WHEN things should be turned off – even if I don’t want them turned off and now we have a machine that requires interaction before operation. There is no longer any doubt in my mind – I am definitely past my expiration date.