Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Pathetic Providence Pamphlet

Yes; the Providence Journal (Pro Jo) has become a pathetic newspaper which can't stay in business much longer without major improvements to its news pages. I still subscribe because I don't make all of the decisions in my household. I'm not buying the argument that it is the cost of publication. Hell; the Pro Jo feels as thick as usual on a Sunday morning, there just isn't any news in it. The paper has plenty of pictures, a lot of advertising and little substance.

I actually had trouble finding the front news pages when I picked up my Sunday paper. For a considerable time, I thought the newspaper delivery person had left out the most important part. I was so excited when I found it! Ten pages of nothing. That's right; the entire section was only 10 pages but that's not all, there was a grand total of 3 pages in news items to read. Remove the pictures, advertisements and the special feature and my Sunday paper brought me approximately 3 pages of news from around the world. This is unacceptable and totally disgusting.

Let's move to the paper's local section on Sunday which is 8 pages long. Not counting the obituary page, there was a total of approximately 2.75 pages of local news. A great deal of this newsprint was taken up in community notices which is not really news. Absolutely unbelievable, is my only reaction! I have extreme difficulty talking about the sports page. The Pro Jo thinks that nothing exists outside of the Providence College Basketball team. All year long I had to be subjected to stories of the "glory years"; day after day after day after day after day.... Somebody stop me; please!

I finished reading my Sunday Pro Jo in record time; 4 minutes and that included the editorial pages (2). Sorry Pro Jo; I want more entertainment than that. You just raised the price by 25% and laid of workers; and, I get 4 minutes of reading news on Sunday morning?

I just read that the Huffington Post has started an investigative journalism venture and will be hiring 10 investigative journalists. It was reported that the web site hoped to draw on displaced investigative journalists who have been laid off by the failing newspapers from across the country. This is great news for those of us that go to a computer every day, but not so great news for elderly people that want to stay in touch. The largest and most consistent voting block in this country is no longer getting all of the news that's needed to make informed decisions.

Providence has just hired a consulting firm to come up with a new logo to rebrand the city. The new motto for the city; "Creative Providence", was chosen. The logo is a rather large orange "P". That's right; the city that distinguishes itself because it has the finest design school in the country, the Rhode Island School of Design, has settled on an orange "P". I'm not kidding. Only Sarah Palin could write this comedy. I don't know what Providence paid for this ground breaking venture in self promotion; but next time, save some money and go to one of the local grammar schools.

I think the choice is fitting though; the orange "P" really stands for "Pathetic Providence Pamphlet".

Why orange? I only think of caution signs and road work when I see orange!! Think of Providence every time you think of "P"! I suppose it could have been yellow!


Sunday, March 29, 2009

Random Reasoning's VII

An occasional column of random thoughts and observa- tions.

Spring is here. The picture was not taken by me but was sent to me by a friend. It's been a long snowy winter and scenes like this have been much anticipated. (click on the image to expand it; the detail is amazing) Thanks Harry!
  1. The week's poll; Besides the economy, what should be the top 3 priorities for the Obama Administration? Iran 1; Iraq 4; Education 0; Health Care 14; Middle East 5; Afghanistan 9; Environment 5; Tax Policy 1; Homeland security 1; Trade Policy 1; North Korea 1; Poverty 1; Energy Policy 15.
  2. From this week's poll, it seems like energy policy, health care and Afghanistan are the top 3 priorities after the economy.
  3. What the hell is wrong with some in Congress? The proposal to selectively tax AIG executives will never stand the Constitutional test. Decide for yourself: Article 1; Section 8; Powers of Congress (Power to lay and collect taxes); ".......imposts and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States".
  4. Do our Congressional Representatives ever read the Constitution?
  5. Ever wonder what happened to "Shaken Leg Syndrome"? Evidently, since the drug was taken off of the market and the marketing blitz has ended, everyone is cured. Amazing!
  6. Did you see that AIG (American International Group) is changing it's name to AIU (American International Underwriters)? I still think they missed the boat; the new name should be AIFU.
  7. I've heard that Senator Jack Reed in Rhode Island was supportive of the selective taxation of AIG executives and Timothy Geithner is opposed. At least Timothy Geithner knows the Constitution.
  8. Did you catch Bobby Jindal's remark about wasting $160 million on volcano monitoring? Apparently, he wants Sarah Palin blown up.
  9. Is it true that Sarah Palin has been complaining about the $10 billion to repair the levee system around the city of New Orleans? Maybe, Sarah Palin wants Bobby Jindal to drown in the next flood. Only kidding!
  10. Hat's off to Notre Dame University for following through with their usual tradition of inviting newly elected Presidents to speak at commencement this year. Turmoil over Obama's appearance is unfounded when you consider that other Presidents, Bush in particular, always ignored the Catholic Church when requested to commute a death sentence.
  11. I think it is true that most migrating birds have been to more countries than Sarah Palin.
  12. Message to the Providence Journal: Stop now; you are embarrassing yourselves!
  13. Did you see that Timothy Geithner always flies coach, never first class? That's a good sign.
  14. The Governing Against the Tide's, "Vision in Politics" award goes to Democratic Senator Byron Dorgon of North Dakota. After only 8 Senators voted against the "Gramm, Leach, Bliley" Act of 1999 (This act deregulated the financial industries and removed numerous protections built into the law following the Great Depression) Dorgan predicted that the economy would become a disaster in a period of 10 years. Now that's vision!! Thank you Senator Dorgan.
  15. It's funny how some people need cities, planes, night lights and noise to feel alive; while some of us need the natural world absent of the artificial noise of mankind.
  16. My leg is shaking!
  17. Three cheers for Obama! He has asked Rick Wagoner to step down as the CEO of General Motors. Check out my earlier post on the auto industry, February 21, 2009, "Will the American Automakers Survive". Maybe Pontiac will now survive!
  18. My leg is still shaking!


Saturday, March 28, 2009

Wisdom from the Woods IV

Wisdom from the Woods is an occasional column that outlines a complex issue.

Today's view of the ledge was actually taken at dawn on the day before the vernal equinox. Readers should be aware that they can click any picture in the column and you'll get incredible resolution. You can get a good look at the Moon in the morning.

During my walk in the woods today, I began thinking about the extremely problematic situation of dealing with Pakistan and Afghanistan. Foreign policy issues today are so complex, it's like reaching into a burlap sack full of rattlesnakes; you know you have to come out with something, but you also know you'll most likely get bitten. Barack Obama is faced with the same problems as George Bush, but the traction lost during the Bush years in the search for Osama bin Laden is unforgivable. The great distraction of Iraq was an extreme case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The most notorious person on the planet was not in Iraq or even close to Iraq. Our Nation's excursion to Iraq was the largest foreign policy blunder in the history of this country. This is not just me saying this; people throughout government and the military that are a lot smarter than I am feel the same way.

Obama is now faced with the possibility of extended war along the Afghanistan border with Pakistan. He needs to be very concerned of involving us in another prolonged conflict with no end in sight. Hopefully, he can find the balance, capture bin Laden and get the hell out of there before he gets bitten.

It seems to me that the cooperation of Pakistan is the real key to success here. Of late, Obama is getting some increased cooperation from leaders in both countries; however, Pakistan still seems to be reluctant to go all out to capture the principals in the al Qaeda network. What other tools might Obama have if Pakistan doesn't pass the cooperation test?

I certainly hope that this never happens because I am talking about 2 nuclear powers here; but, I do feel that the United States could threaten to increase military support of India by providing selected advanced technologies. Pakistan, being a mortal enemy of India could not tolerate this. The trade off here would be to apply the pressure on Pakistan to deliver Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri and other top al Qaeda operatives to the United States. Once the al Qaeda network is dismantled, there could be great rewards for Pakistan and an assurance of equality in military technology between the 2 nations.

I know; its the old carrot and the stick, and we're all tired of the United States using the stick. None the less; Pakistan needs to be able to control this extremist movement within it's borders. Any step the U.S. could take to accelerate that cooperation could lessen the time we have to be present in the region. We all know that Pakistan needs to take giant steps to eliminate the extremist within it's borders or it won't be long before these wackos have their fingers on a nuclear button.


Friday, March 27, 2009

Privatization and Potholes

How's your car doing? I think one thing that will pick up the economy in the next six months is repairs to automobiles because of the massive number of potholes in this state. How did we get here and why? I'm back to my favorite presidential impostor, Ronald Reagan. Now Reagan really had nothing to do with the way things were run in Rhode Island, but he did set in motion the the privatization notion.

A few decades ago, the State Department of Transportation had strategically located road crews available that would fix potholes within a few days of their appearance. As the privatization craze moved forward, news crews and politicians jumped on any story of impropriety; you know, so and so fixed his own driveway on state time with state equipment; serious problems no doubt. Do you think for a moment that this does not go on with privatized services? You know; private folks fixing something that is not the state's responsibility, but charging the state anyway. Consequently, the State reduced it's contingent of DOT work crews and decided that the private sector would do it better.

Think of the bureaucracy. In days gone by, a pothole would appear and some politician would hear about it and complain to the DOT. There would be a crew out there that day fixing the road. What happens today? Well; we need time to define the problem, then we need to develop specifications for fixing the problem. Now; we need to have another agency of government approve those specifications. Now; we have to go out to bid, giving bidders ample time to prepare their bids. Now; we open the bids and hopefully go with the low bidder. Now; we have to write a contract. The contract has to be reviewed by another government entity, a group called lawyers. Now; changes to the contract have to be approved. But that's not all; today the state doesn't have enough engineers of their own to manage the projects. Now; we have to hire privatized help to watch over the privatized help. The same steps taken earlier to find a contractor need to be repeated. Eventually, contracts are awarded and by this time your car is ready for the dump. Not only that, cost overruns are considered to be a part of the game and tolerated.

Now in days gone by, we had some trained state employees that did a fairly adequate job. At least when they were employed, our potholes didn't grow to the size of a Volkswagen Beetle. This is an important consideration when managing road systems. Fix the problems when they are small. More importantly, the state had ready labor at it's fingertips to perform an untold number of additional tasks that; you guessed it, are now privatized. Snowplowing, street sweeping, road grading, bridge maintenance, brush and tree removal, line painting and the list goes on.

Now the State DOT still has crews that do some of this work, but nothing like it did 20 years ago. Have our roads gotten better? Has the state saved money? Ever notice how long it takes to complete road projects these days when the privatized crews start breaking ground. You have all seen it; projects that should take 3 months take 3 years.

The state is now throwing stimulus money on the years of neglect. The neglect can be tied directly to the reduction in state capabilities, not the weather. If you think that our roads are being maintained for less money today than 20 years ago; all things being equal, I have some land to sell you in Florida.


Thursday, March 26, 2009

Global Warming is Real - Like it or Lump it!

Ever feel like taking Rush Limbaugh to the beach; bury him in the sand, (it would take a very large hole) and wait for the tide to come in. It probably won't take long for Limbaugh to be in over his bloated head. Global warming is real and I'm glad we have a President that accepts science instead of the rantings of a lunatic.

Each year I discuss this issue with my class because there are a few folks that get a lot of media attention who claim that scientists are just alarming us all. Well; I'm alarmed, and I'm also appalled by the ignorance of a Rush Limbaugh.

I like to show this chart to my class that is based on very solid science which outlines the level of CO2 in the atmosphere during the past 420,000 years. If Rush Limbaugh or anyone else wants to question the reality of global warming, I challenge them to prove to me that CO2 does not cause a greenhouse affect. What's incredible about the chart displayed is the level of growth in CO2 since the Industrial Revolution. You don't have to be a climate scientist to understand the connection.

Yes; the Earth goes through periods of warming and cooling. This is natural and we are in the portion of the cycle that leads to warming of the planet. Take a close look at the chart. Our last ice age was some 10,000 years ago and was part of a natural cycle of warming and cooling that occurs every 100,000 +/- years. Please note that historic levels of CO2 in the atmosphere never exceeded 300 ppmV until the last 100 years. Since the Industrial Revolution, our planet has coincided with the natural warming cycle but CO2 levels have spiked to unprecedented levels (380 ppmV). CO2 levels have far exceeded previous spikes during the past 420,000 years. If Mike Huckabee or Sarah Palin is listening, this is a little more than your 7,000 year old history of the planet.

This data is built on solid science and can't be refuted. If you want to try, let's hear it? We also know that CO2 is a greenhouse gas. If you want to dispute that, let's hear it? We know that greenhouse gasses trap heat on our planet; if you want to dispute it, let's hear it? If you want to dispute any of this argument, you need to watch "Extreme Ice", a PBS special on the melting ice around the world. If after watching this PBS special, you want to take Rush Limbaugh's side, let's hear it?

While some debate the reality of global warming; we continue to lose precious time, and Rush Limbaugh's gas continues to make this planet warmer and warmer.

Pay attention America; this is a serious problem.


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Today's Cost of Higher Education - A Tragedy!

Of all of the things that have been going on in the economy during the past 20 years, the cost of higher education stands out as the most egregious attack on the future of this country. You can surf the web for all of the statistics, I'm not going to waste my time looking as I have first hand knowledge of how education costs have grown way out of proportion with the rest of the economy. One could argue that health care competes, but I think it's a distant second.

The Obama administration today released information on the "American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009", also known as the Stimulus Bill, and outlined how education is treated into the near future. If you want to see the official government talking points, click on the following: (Power Point link to the Obama Stimulus Plan and Education) then click on "Power Point" link. There is good news and bad news. In order for stimulus funds to be used for higher education, each Governor must assure the state will maintain the same level of support for education in FY 2009-2011 as it did in 2006. Good luck to Rhode Island!!! Our incredibly short-sighted Governor has been dismantling the higher education budget for the state. He has hit these accounts so hard that it is estimated by 2013, the University of Rhode Island will no longer enjoy any public support.

What a tragedy and a failure of leadership. How did we get here? I've had the honor and privilege to teach students at the University of Rhode Island for the past 4 years. I have to tell you that things are a lot different than when I went to college (1968-1973). Many students today are working multiple jobs as well as doing their classroom work. By the time they graduate, many will have loans that approximate the value of a house. Young people that want to get married may well be sitting on debts that will be with them until they retire. Think about that!

I always start my first class each semester by asking students what they think my tuition was at the University of Massachusetts in 1968? Nobody has come close yet. Tuition was $50 per semester and room and board approximated $500 a semester. Students could get an entire year of education for around $1500. More important than that; students could work each summer and come close to meeting all of their educational expenses. Yes my family helped; they certainly were not rich, but when I graduated I had no debt.

When my son was born (1982), it was estimated that a college education in 18 years at a school like Brown University would cost around $10,000 per year. My wife and I began a savings program to build a $40,000 education fund. When my son went to college, we had saved $40,000. By the time my son had graduated, total costs approximated $160,000. It's a good thing that he got some significant scholarships. It's also a good thing that I only had one child to worry about. How the hell is the middle class in this country going to afford to educate their kids?

For years I've wondered why politicians have not moved this issue to the front burner. I think the answer lies in the fact that many of our politicians are very wealthy and the issue never connected with them. Certainly the issue never connected with the past administration. It feels good to have a President and First Lady that just finished paying off college loans a few years ago; and this only happened because of Barack Obama's book deals. President Obama is finally giving this issue the exposure that it needs and doing something about it. Education is still going to be a reach for middle class kids as the proposals that I've seen only touch the surface.

I think a lot more needs to be done here. Maybe nobody's buying a house right now because all of our young people are swimming in debt. Certainly, as banks and the government tighten the mortgage rules, our young people are going to struggle for many years to come. I don't think that's fair, but I'm confident that Republicans don't have the answer. Hell; they never raised the question!


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A Good Dose of Andy Griffith is What the Doctor Ordered!

I like to watch a lot of 1950, 1960 and 1970 TV shows. I probably catch 3 or 4 reruns of the Andy Griffith show every week. The show last night really "struck a chord" with me. It made me think of more innocent times; a time when neighbors really cared about each other. With today's "toxic mortgage" discussion in the background, this show really drew my attention.

In the episode; a local Mayberry family is going through some tough times and is going to have their mortgage foreclosed by the "Scrooge" like character, Ben Weaver, who owns Weaver's Department Store. Of course, Sheriff Taylor has to serve the papers on this family that is an important part of the community. The family; down on their luck had a few children, not 14 children like "Octomom".

While the community worked on ways to assist the family, Andy was faced with a dilemma. It was his responsibility to serve the foreclosure papers. He was deeply concerned because the Ben Weaver character only wanted to foreclose so he could build a new factory. Andy knew the law and as we all know, had unique ways to walk around it when it involved people. Andy reasoned that the law required the homeowner to have full knowledge of the foreclosure action; therefore, if he stole his friends glasses, he would be unable to read the foreclosure documents. Of course, Andy stole the glasses and the foreclosure action was delayed long enough to find a resolution. That resolution involved shaming the Ben Weaver character into giving the good folks some more time to settle their debt. In the end, the factory took a back seat.

Wow! What a powerful message. People are given a break and can stay in their homes; and, this is more important than the new factory. Whenever I hear political pundits referring to those that have "toxic" mortgages as "losers", I am disgusted by their attitude. Every Mayberry loving American should be disgusted too.

Sheriff Taylor and Aunt Bea didn't consider those people losers. Heck; they didn't consider Otis Campbell to be a loser. Everyone in the community was important. Where have those times gone? We all accepted and loved the message back in the 1960s. Why do we have to listen to the hatred spewed forth on talk radio against some people that have been eaten up in this economy?

I think each and every American needs another good dose of Andy Griffith, Mayberry and the values of true patriots. During the election, I had a nice dose of the old Andy Griffith and the, now old, Ron Howard. If you want to see how these men have responded to today's politics during the election of 2008, follow the link (click here).

I'll continue to watch the Andy Griffith Show to regain my balance from today's "talking heads" that don't know what they are saying. By the way, Andy did return his friend's glasses. We all should have the vision of Sheriff Taylor.


Monday, March 23, 2009

Why are Some Conservatives Infatuated with Sarah Palin?

I can't understand for the life of me why some conservatives are so impressed by Sarah Palin? I've been reluctant to write about this topic because the troubling nature of the infatuation has made me search for a reason; obviously, I can't find one. I have very good friends that are truly conservative and only voted for McCain because of what they perceived Palin brought to the table. I know a number of other conservatives that were forced to vote for Obama because of their concern over Palin. One good friend from the south hadn't voted Democratic in over 50 years but told me, Palin is a real problem for McCain. It seems like Palin is truly a love-hate relationship with Republicans. I can't figure out the love part; and here's a few reasons why.

Didn't conservative folks notice that Palin pulled her kids out of school and dragged them all over the country with her during the election? I wonder what the law says about this in Alaska? Were her children actually truant? Barack and Michelle Obama made sure their kids stayed in school and sought as little disruption as possible to their children's routine. Heck; the Obama's made their children go to school the day after the election. Which is the "conservative" choice?

Sarah Palin charged the state for travel for her husband and kids on a regular basis. Forget about the national campaign, she did this all the time back in Alaska. Is this the practice of a fiscal conservative? Further, she was charging the state per Diem costs for those days that she was staying in her own home. OK, it was away from the Capitol, but you still have to wonder about her conservative credentials. This is not the practice of a true fiscal conservative.

When Sarah's star power was on the rise, we then learn of the clothing fiasco. The final chapter hasn't been written on this gem. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent from the Republican Campaign Committee for clothing, not only for herself, but for her kids. This ethical lapse is monumental. Meanwhile, Obama is walking around with holes in his shoes, a ten year old belt and I don't think he owned more than 4 suits when the campaign started. OK, he bought a few new suits and Michelle bought new clothes; but Michelle's dresses were reported to cost under $200 and, the Obama's paid for their own clothes. Who was making the fiscally conservative decisions here?

What about the myriad of ethics violations that Palin has brought upon the people of Alaska. It has been reported that her legal bills are approximately $500,000 to date. Troopergate was just one case in point. Here in Rhode Island we have a conservative governor that likes to defy the ethics code. He's been caught a number of times as has Palin. I'm not going to write this off as a conservative trait though. I think ethics violations extend beyond party lines. My point however; is that conservatives blast away at Democrats when there are ethics violations, yet apparently stay silent when it is one of them. Conservatives usually try to claim the higher ground even though they don't own it. Why do they want to own Palin's sketchy behavior?

Another troubling thing that I noted during the campaign was the forever presence of her husband. Doesn't this guy have a job? He should have been home in Alaska; taking care of the kids and the household, making sure those kids were doing their school work. It seemed like he was right there for every event and almost every interview. In the mean time, we know that one daughter had a little too much freedom. I ask you again; is this the behavior of a true conservative? Is this what conservative family values means?

Somebody help me! I remain very confused. Sarah Palin has not displayed stability throughout her life and stability is generally considered to be a conservative trait. A case in point; attending 5 different colleges over 6 years before she finally got a degree from the University of Idaho. How many people take that route to get their degree and why? There is still something that bothers me about Sarah Palin beyond all of this, I do not think that she is being honest at times.

For all the talk about Palin's family values; believe it or not, liberals have strong family values and most of us are fiscally conservative. To my friends that have trouble swallowing this, ask me how long the curtains were hanging in my state office? Palin has not exhibited conservative traits in her own life and if I'm looking for somebody with conservative values, Barack Obama wins that contest.


Sunday, March 22, 2009

Random Reasoning's VI

An occasional column of random thoughts and observations.

  1. This weeks poll results: What grade would you give Barack Obama today? A, 48%; B, 48%; C, 0%; D, 0%; F, 4%. I'd say these results are pretty good, especially when I know a few Republicans voted.
  2. Former Vice-President Dick Cheney has been mouthing off lately by trying to scare us all because he is no longer in power. At least George W. Bush has the class to stay silent. Cheney; you need to take me up on that offer to go shoot all the feral pigs in Texas!
  3. Memo to Dick Cheney: Did you not hear the testimony of General Kevin Chilton before Congress on March 17? Seems like you guys were sleeping longer than Rip Van Winkle. Ever hear of cyber security. You know; that type of security that your administration was in large part ignoring. You think you were keeping us safe?
  4. And another thing Dick; you guys were sleeping for months before 911. How dare you? You didn't keep us safe. Your leadership was a disgrace!
  5. Speaking of disgrace; did you hear about the latest "Joe the Plumber" speech before the conservative Media Research Center? Seems like Joe Wurzelbacher was getting so much loving from the crowd that he told everyone he was "getting horny". It's Amazing they can't find somebody that knows something to talk before that group.
  6. Obama's final four picks look good to me.
  7. Message to Pope Benedict: The church is not in the "forefront in the battle against AIDS." Truth be known; God willing, the church is centuries behind. Your condom message is counterproductive to humanity and was a pathetic message to send to a region so ravaged by AIDS. You need to pray on that!
  8. Ever wonder if Adam and Eve were Neandertal? Where does that leave us?
  9. There were a record number of babies born in the United States in 2007, 4.5 million of them. The sad thing was that 40% were born to single moms. Seems like there needs to be a few more condoms worn in this country.
  10. At least the nations of France and Germany have blasted the Pontiff's message to Africa.
  11. I like the Obama quote: "If you're walking down the right path and you're willing to keep walking, eventually you'll make progress."
  12. Isn't it great to have a President that can speak English? I think it should be a requirement of the job.
  13. Hat's off to Bill Richardson of New Mexico for repealing the death sentence in his state and requiring that "life in prison" means life in prison. You just saved your citizens millions of dollars in taxes.
  14. I wonder what Phil Gramm is trying to mess up now?
  15. If Blue Cross in Rhode Island is a non-profit and they donated $20 million dollars to another non-profit, the Rhode Island Foundation, why can't policy holders take a charitable deduction off of their income tax for part of their premiums?
  16. Did you see where the Swedish Countess, Marie Douglas-David can't get by on $43 million which translates into $53,000 per week? Now there's a women that can really destroy the institution of marriage.
  17. Let's all say a prayer for those 4 Oakland, California police officers.
  18. Barney Frank reminds me of Sister Superior; I want those names and I want them now. If you don't cooperate you'll stay after school.
  19. Message to Barney: I think you should do your job. Singling out some folks at AIG that had signed contracts is not it. AIG is not totally at fault here; Congress is. Some of those employees were getting death threats and need confidentiality. It was Congress; although a Republican Congress at the time, that deregulated us into this mess. Now go fix it - damn it!
  20. One more message to Pope Benedict: As the wise prophet once said; "if you're going to flap it, wrap it."


Saturday, March 21, 2009

Wisdom from the Woods III

Wisdom from the Woods is an occasional column that outlines complex issues.

Welcome to spring. This picture was taken the day before the vernal equinox. Yesterday's sunrise was shrouded in clouds. I can only imagine what was going on at this ledge 500 years ago.

Before I get to today's comment, I want to just call to every one's attention some of the links on the left side of the blog. I've added a number of links that I think are worthwhile checking out. The Sarah Palin, Katie Couric interview is well worth the half hour it takes to watch. I know a lot of people probably saw the Tina Fey version, but the original is just as funny or sad or scary or troubling or all these things rolled into one.

Additionally, the link to the "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" masterpiece, "Kingdom Come" is available to view. The song is a gut wrenching story of the aftermath of 911; so be prepared, most people cry when they hear it for the first time. Notice the Republican in the audience that refuses to clap at the end. What the hell was up with that guy? The Sarah Palin turkey pardon was added when a friend requested it. The Barack Obama speech on Lincoln's birthday is quite historic and worth watching. Keith Olbermann's special comment on divisive politics being anti-American is worth the time. Finally, the Bill Maher video just reinforces a lot of points I make in this blog.

On the ledge today, I just happened to be thinking about where this country would be if John McCain had been elected. I don't think that Sarah Palin would be the greatest concern. I know, that's hard to accept, but she would only become the greatest concern if McCain became ill. The greatest fear that I have would be the access to the President of Phil Gramm, former Republican Senator from Texas. Phil Gramm's legacy may very well approach the infamy of Herbert Hoover's. I don't think I could point to another person still living that has done more to screw up this nation and hurt so many people along the way.

Phil Gramm was a top economic advisor to John McCain and would have played a huge role in a McCain presidency. That man would most likely be Treasury Secretary today. Talk about economic meltdown. Remember what Gramm was saying during the election? How about this quote; "You've heard about mental depression, this is a mental recession"? Who could forget this classic; "We sort of become a nation of whiners. You just hear this constant whining, complaining about a loss of competitiveness, America in decline?" What the hell would have become of the country if this troll was calling the shots?

Phil Gramm led the charge for deregulating Wall Street. Mother Jones magazine refers to him as "Foreclosure Phil". Bank deregulation is front and center in today's financial meltdown and Gramm was holding all of the best seats. I suppose to be fair, Washington is not one person, but Gramm has to be first in line. Let's not forget that it's a family affair with this troubling personality. Gramm's wife, Wendy Gramm was front and center for the fall of Enron and the Gramm's both profited mightily from the Enron disaster. Wendy sat on the Board of Directors for Enron and served as the board's treasurer. She was a great deregulator in her own right. Heck, Enron was just an exhibition game for Phil Gramm. He was getting ready for the really big meltdown. When it came, he couldn't see it. He could never see beyond ideology which is his greatest fault.

Just a scary thought from the ledge today. Thank God the American people are smart enough to turn this nation in a new direction. I hope that Phil Gramm will now fade into the sagebrush of Texas. I don't think he could do much harm there.


Friday, March 20, 2009

Cyber Security and the Threat from al Qaeda

President Barack Obama has long expressed a fear that the next attack on America may well be a cyber attack. During Obama's campaign, he pledged to develop a strategy to ensure that the internet infrastructure is protected from dismantling efforts of our enemies. On February 17, 2009, Obama begin a 60 day review process to assess the effectiveness of the Bush $30 billion cyber defense policy. He appointed Melissa Hathaway to lead this effort which requires a comprehensive study in a very short time period. This leadership on display is what was continually lacking during the Bush administration.

Let me share with you why I have become really concerned. On March 17, 2009, Air Force General Kevin Chilton, the head of the Pentagon's Strategic Command warned Congress that the risk of cyber attack remains a very serious threat. Chilton told Congress that his command has responsibility to protect the military networks, but they are not charged with protecting other government or private networks that, if attacked, would cripple the nation.

This is a truly scary report to Congress. It seems like the Bush administration was sound asleep again. Not only did Bush sleep in the months before 911, it sounds like he's been sleeping during the entire 8 years of his presidency. While Dick Cheney was so busy torturing our enemies, I don't believe that they understood the real risk here. The testimony of General Chilton would tend to support this. Chilton had to be aware of all of the efforts to protect the internet from crippling cyber attack; that was his job. Apparently, the government's effort lacked the ability and/or authority to protect the entire system.

After the attack on 911, the Bush administration put in place many security measures that focused on preventing future attacks. I do think their primary focus was on the possibility of similar grand attacks that could show extremist Islamic disdain for western civilization. Colin Powell's former Chief of Staff, Lawrence Wilkerson, just called Dick Cheney "evil" and he went on to say that his fear mongering is "assisting" al Qaeda. While Cheney calls our enemies, evil, and I believe that he is right, he lost focus on what 21st century threats might well entail. Cheney spent too much time hating the enemy and not enough time studying the enemy. This is the sad truth behind Wilkerson's comments. We can never forget that the main goal in previous al Qaeda attacks was to bring down financial systems.

Just think about this. If you could bring down the financial systems of western civilization with a cyber attack, would you be focusing on trying to get a few hijackers through the tightened airport security systems throughout the world? Why would you do that if you could stay in your cave, enlist some smart people to focus on a cyber attack world wide that then could be launched from anywhere, or multiple places? You could carry on your attack without the need for weapons and without the risk of exposure in a security conscious world. Every computer in the world then becomes a potential weapon.

While we do have to worry about the enemy getting a dirty bomb that could kill a lot of people and seriously hurt our nation and the world, the risk of uncovering such a plot is great. I think the enemy sees little risk in preparing for a cyber attack. Dick Cheney was dedicated to keeping a dirty bomb out of the hands of our enemies; I'm not sure, following the testimony of General Chilton, that his administration was preparing us for all of the threats in the 21st century.

Dick Cheney may not feel as secure as when he was running the show; but I have to tell you, I sure as hell feel a lot safer with Obama at the helm. I sincerely hope that Obama has the time to install the proper security measures, because Bush and company have squandered valuable time.


Thursday, March 19, 2009

Sherman Antitrust Act and AIG

I spoke to a good friend last night and he brought up a very good point that I haven't heard mentioned throughout this meltdown in our economy. Is it a good thing for banks to be merging? Bank of America keeps getting larger as is swallows financial institutions throughout our economy. Why was a company like AIG allowed to become so large, that it could not fail?

Remember when the Government broke apart AT&T because of that company's control of the communications industry? In 1982, the U.S. Government took that drastic step. Today it seems like the Obama administration is doing everything it can to keep AIG whole. I have not heard discussions that connect the Sherman Antitrust Act to the situation with AIG. Why not?

As time goes on, mergers throughout our economy are severely limiting competition in the marketplace. We have far fewer oil companies today than existed 20 years ago because of mergers in the industry. I've heard some talk about the necessity of mergers between the big three automakers. Seems like this just may make the situation far worse. Government policy should not lead to building larger more unmanageable companies.

The Justice Department has an Antitrust Division. What's been going on here? The world did not end with the dismantling of AT&T. I don't think that breaking apart AIG will end capitalism as we know it. It might be the best thing. Something tells me that we also can't afford to have banks that are too big to fail. Maybe if the Justice Department focused its attention on this issue, we wouldn't have to deal with today's bailout of companies that simply can not fail.

I've got to thank my friend for the conversation we had last night. There's a lot of food for thought here.


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Obama and Science - A Breath of Fresh Air

Of all the problems during the last Bush administration, the attack on science as the foundation for truth was the most egregious. The Bush science legacy has set this country apart from most of the world, making the United States look like an ideological terrorist. Besides the continuous mistakes in foreign policy, the inability to move science forward will taint the presidency of George Bush forever. Losing 8 years of innovation is not forgivable. The continuous distortion of true science is legendary for the Bush years.

Barack Obama got his administration off on the right foot when he announced his science team so early. Boy; what a science team it is. Steven Chu, physicist and Nobel laureate is the Secretary of Energy. John Holdren, physicist, is the President's science advisor. I happen to like physicists, they tend to be the best thinkers in the scientific world in my opinion. Jane Lubchenco, marine ecologist will head the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Harold Varmus, biologist, Nobel laureate and Eric Lander, a genome expert will co chair the President's Council of Advisers on Science and Technology (PCAST).

Get used to that acronym PCAST; you will hear that a lot during the next eight years. Science has been the foundation of America's success. No other country can come close to the achievements that our great Nation has been able to provide the world. Unfortunately; during the Bush years, other Nations were beginning to find leadership roles on many science issues.

Now we have a President that understands the need for science leadership. You can watch Obama's message and feel confident that America will lead into the future. What this country can never afford again is to have an ideologue making decisions absent of true science. This is what Bush gave us and this is what Obama will change. We will have science in the 21st century.


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Wisdom from the Woods II

Wisdom from the Woods is an occasional column that outlines complex issues.

I'm in the woods again today as you can see. The rock in the picture is an artifact from Native American ceremonies. I have a dozen of these specimens on my property. The ledge on which this rock sits is perfectly aligned with the rising sun. I've read that the purpose behind lifting the rocks and chalking them as you see here was to allow easy access for rocking the boulders back and forth on the ledge. The sound created was an integral component of the ceremony and could be heard from miles away.

Today I'm thinking about corporate culture and how it contrasts with public sector employment. Having served in the public sector, I'm very sensitive towards criticism, especially when that criticism is unfounded. Today, we are finally seeing for the first time in recent memory, the corporate culture in this country being attacked. There are hundreds of protesters outside of AIG headquarters as I write.

It's funny that our society only seems to care about these things when it perceives that tax dollars are being squandered. Exxon-Mobil can tax us to death and nobody seems to care. Whether the money is coming through the government to the corporation or whether the money leaves our hands directly and goes to the corporation seems like an insignificant difference. AIG is changing the way citizens think of big business.

I worked hard in the public sector for years. Some years I managed to bring an additional hundreds of thousands of dollars to my state for projects that helped everyone. When I was successful, I got no bonus. I never wanted a bonus. My vocation to perform at my job was driven by the vision of a secure future and a wish to do the right thing. That secure future was spelled out in advance to me through the public employee pension system. This is the future that I wanted. Public employment works for the benefit of everyone, but it will only function efficiently as long as employees are provided for.

The corporate culture of annual bonuses, layoffs and huge severance packages is fine if that is what you bought into. I'll never understand bonuses for poor performance, and that is exactly what we are seeing at AIG.

I know many young people today who are making more money than their school teachers that may have been in the profession for 30 years. That's OK; I have no problem with that. It's always been that way. Those school teachers in 90% of the cases that I am familiar with did a great job. There were no bonuses; just good people doing their job. Hopefully, it was a job that they loved. The concern that I have today is the drive to take the future away from our school teachers and long term public employees. You can argue all you want that the public sector needs to be more like the private sector. I think not; just look at AIG. I can imagine what newspapers will be saying on the day that government starts handing out bonuses. Do you want your government to be run like that? I don't!


Monday, March 16, 2009

AIG: Americans In Graft

Graft is defined as the acquisition of money or advantage by dishonest or unfair means; especially through the abuse of one's position or influence through politics. AIG has positioned itself so that it simply can not fail. If AIG fails, reports indicate that the entire banking system is at risk. How does AIG respond to the crisis which is their making? Handing out bonuses to connected executives responsible for the largest corporate losses in U.S. history.

AIG executives in my estimation are traitors. If capitalism is at risk in this crisis, point your fingers at AIG, not the government of the United States. The Huffington Post outlines the situation and decries the abuse of this inexcusable corporate greed. A loss of $61.7 billion and now AIG is going to pay out $450 million in bonuses to top corporate executives. For what? Sending this country and the world into a depression? All of this happens after the citizens of this Nation have supplied a $170 billion rescue package in many installments to this traitoress company.

AIG; Americans in Graft, Americans in Greed, Americans in Gloom, Americans in Glee? Take your pick. This corporate greed needs to stop under the force of law. That's right capitalist America; under the force of law, and corporate greed is responsible not progressive politicians.


Sunday, March 15, 2009

Random Reasoning's V

An occasional column of random thoughts and observations.

  1. OK; no more "Blog On" as my signature. I'm going to use "tomtoak" instead. This was my first e-mail handle.
  2. This week's poll: Will Obama be able to establish a universal health care program by; the end of 2009, 33%; the end of 2010, 28%; the end of his first term, 33%; it will never happen, 6%?
  3. Sarah Palin was scary because she didn't know what she was doing; Dick Cheney was scary because he knew what he was doing.
  4. Bernie Madoff - It's about time - now get the rest of them because he could not have done this all by himself.
  5. Governor Mark Sanford, Hypocrite and Chief executive officer for South Carolina, you are this week's Herbert Hoover wanna-bee. It seems like Sandford wants stimulus money to pay down South Carolina's debt as he lectures the Federal government about spending money it doesn't have. The words, unbelievable and stupid come to mind here!
  6. Remember when the Providence Journal was a proud and respected newspaper owned by Rhode Islanders? As they praise Governor Carcieri for attempting to cut taxes for the wealthiest citizens, they raise the daily cost of the "pamphlet" by 25%. This comes just after more layoffs. Do I hear a sucking sound of money leaving Rhode Island and heading to Texas?
  7. Barack Obama is right. You can always read a person's personality on the basketball court. If he got Mark Sanford out there, my bet is that Sanford would be continually driving to the wrong basket.
  8. Jeremiah Wright served 6 years in the Marines, Dick Cheney had 5 deferments. Hmmmm; what's wrong with this picture (Cheney's service to America)?
  9. Happy birthday, Barbie (50 years).
  10. A Democrat in West Virginia wants to outlaw Barbie dolls. I guess if you like your women fat and toothless, you can understand why the image of Barbie is a little disturbing.
  11. Anyone know what "61727054" refers to? Let's hear from you.
  12. McCain argues about 2% of the Federal budget in earmarks being the answer to fixing our economy. Donald Carcieri argues about 5% of the State budget for pension payments being the answer to fixing our economy (It's only this high because the State has robbed from the employees for years by not paying their fair share; now they have to bring money to the table). It seems like some Republicans need a math lesson!
  13. Obama wants to repeal the Bush tax cut for the highest income bracket and return to 39.6% instead of the 35% rate today. Funny; at the end of Reagan's first term, this level was 50%, during Nixon's term this level was 70% and during Eisenhower's presidency it was 91%. And they call Barack Obama a socialist? Seems like "soaking the rich" was the common practice back in those good old Republican days.
  14. Michael Steele believes bipartisanship is a "fiction of politics". I think today's Republican Party is a "fiction of politics".
  15. I heard the just discovered message in Abraham Lincoln's pocket watch said; "screw you Rush Limbaugh". Amazing!
  16. Just think; if the marginal taxation rate for upper income people returned to the same level as it was during the Eisenhower administration, we wouldn't give a shit about all those bonus payments to AIG executives. Hell, we'd be getting all of the money back.
  17. Dick Cheney must be the only person in the United States that could shoot a lawyer in the face and not get sued.
  18. Public pensions have become a target (even though they represent only 5% of the budget) because people are jealous of the benefit. Do the math; put aside close to 18% of your salary (half from the employee) for 35 years and compound the interest. Folks in the private sector are not putting aside this much (conservative growth of 7% over 35 years gives the pension system more than enough to meet payouts with a healthy profit for the State).
  19. Pension systems are built to weather the storm. We have a storm right now, but because the state has been robbing repeatedly from the pension system, they now have to invest to make the system whole. Buying when the market is down is a good thing. Reported projections for the future are totally erroneous.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Dogs and Cats: Democrats and Republicans

Ever watch your dog and cat looking out on the world? You think they are both looking at the same thing; but chances are, the dog is watching the mailman and the cat is watching the robin in the tree. It's sort of like Democrats and Republicans. It seems like we are both looking at the same thing, but too often we're looking in opposite directions.

I think my cat tends to be a Republican. I think all cats have this tendency. She is very independent and smart, but she always wants things her way. Most of the time she could take you or leave you. She's not tied into your personal feelings. I think Republicans tend this way also.

My dog tends to be a Democrat. Heck; I think all dogs tend this way; I'm not sure about Pit Bulls though. Dogs live close to that philosophy; "it takes a village". They always want to see you and they're always looking for a handout; yet, they love you enough to save you from a fire. They are smart enough to protect you from danger and they truly care about you like the Democrats do.

Now I know Democrats that are cat lovers and I know Republicans that are dog lovers. Sometimes opposites attract. I tend to love them both. Seems like all the Presidents had dogs, although George Bush's dog liked to bite people. Lyndon Johnson's Beagles should have bitten him (for you that are too young to know, Johnson used to pick up his dogs by their ears). Bill Clinton had the most famous cat (Socks, just passed away). As the saying goes in our Nation's Capitol; "if you want a friend in Washington, get yourself a dog".

Maybe dogs and cats are closer than you think. Ever watch the dog and cat on a cold winter night when you turn the thermostat down? A frequent scene is the cat curled up against the dog, both working together sharing their body warmth. This is sort of like bipartisanship. When things get a little difficult, they work together.

Why can't Democrats and Republicans do the same thing?


Thursday, March 12, 2009

Carcieri's Budget Slammed by Republicans

You heard it here first. I could not understand how any reasonable person could except the future vision of Rhode Island as presented by our Governor. Today we learn that Democrats and Republicans alike slammed Carcieri's proposed budget (Providence Journal Article) for the next fiscal year. The budget was so bad that no Republican would carry the bill forward in the state legislature. Carcieri was put in the awkward position of having no sponsor. This must be a first for Rhode Island government. Amen.

Here is what the minority leader, Bob Watson had to say; "I am disappointed that this budget apparently is reliant upon raising taxes in order to balance it". Bob Watson was concerned about the impacts to the middle class. Understand that the Governor pitched his budget under the cloak of cutting taxes. Even Republicans recognized that the vast middle-class was going to suffer the consequences of cutting the taxes for the wealthy. I truly believe that our Governor envisions himself as the "great tax eliminator". How the hell does he think government is going to work in the future. His vision is to lay the burden squarely upon the middle class. We, the vast majority don't have our 30 foot yachts, which pay no annual excise tax, lined up along the shores of Narragansett Bay. I'm sure he enjoys his yacht and I know he enjoys his annual pension that exceeds $500 thousand.

Rhode Islanders will have to endure this dearth of leadership for the next year and a half. I hope that the leadership vacuum will lead to a truly great transforming figure for our State. So far, I think this has been the case on the national level. Our Country has gone through a period of reawakening during the last hellacious eight years. I hope Rhode Island can find true leadership as our Nation did.

Thank you, Rhode Island Republicans for bolstering my case.


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Tax and Spend and the Cult that is Republican

Governor Carcieri released the State budget on Tuesday and I'm almost speechless. If any of you radio talk show cultists think that Carcieri is for the common man, then you need to get an immediate appointment at Butler Hospital. This proposed budget lays the groundwork for economic ruin in Rhode Island. I know that "cult" is a strong word here and I do not wish to offend any of my Republican friends. A cult can be defined as a small group that venerates a person or ideal. Seems like most cults are always after your money. I know it sounds funny because we're used to hearing Democrats accused of this behavior; but in this case, it's the Republican after our money. I hope I make my case below.

Let's go to the bottom line. A proposed $7.62 billion budget compared to last year's $6.92 billion is a 10% increase. While there is a need to budget for the economic stimulus, this budget reflects this and then some. His budget will force over 1000 additional state employees into retirement which will seriously impact the operation of government for a decade. I want to remind folks that state employee costs in this year's budget were approximately 20% of the total. State employee salaries, benefits and pensions only cost approximately $1.4 billion now. In the new budget, the state employee burden will decline to approximately 17% of the bottom line.

When this proposed budget runs into huge deficits, Carcieri will scapegoat employees again. This is what he likes to do. He will lay the blame for future deficits squarely on the backs of working people. Last year's budget costs every man, woman and child in Rhode Island $7000 annually (Federal dollars are considered here because our state also budgets Federal dollars; but that is another stupid story to tell). Next year's budget will cost $7,600 for each person.

Now; how does Carcieri's plan get to the bottom line? Let's take a close look and keep in mind how each decision will affect you, your family and your children.

The plan to lower taxes: Reduce the corporate income tax and phase out by 2014. Gee; who's going to make up the difference? Top personal income tax will drop from 9.9% to 5.5%. Gee; who's going to make up the difference? The estate tax bottom will increase to $1 million. Gee; who's going to make up the difference?

The plan to raise revenue: Increase the cigarette tax. Gee; who buys cigarettes? Raise the fee to reinstate a suspended license. Gee; what demographic does this go after? Impose a 2% tax on health care insurers. Gee; who's going to be paying for this?

The plan to lower expenditures (which is an oxymoron because expenditures increase 10%): End the 3% COLA on July 1 for all retirees. Gee; sounds like more scapegoating of public employees here and how will the State be able to function with a seriously depleted workforce? Eliminate all revenue-sharing monies for the State's cities and towns. Gee; I wonder who's going to pay for this reduction? Abolish the Pharmaceutical Assistance to the Elderly program. Gee; I wonder what's going to happen to all of these elderly people? Gee; I wonder why he's lowering any expenditure when he's proposing to raise the budget by 10%?

You know why? He has to have mechanisms to pay for all of the tax breaks to his wealthy friends and to the corporations in this State. So who is Carcieri trying to impoverish? The answer is clear; the common man, middle income citizens, the poor, you and me.

Are people going to let him get away with this? This to me embodies the sick ugly cult that is today's Republican. Republicans tend not to be about "we the people", their more about personal greed. Nothing speaks to this better than the proposed budget of Donald Carcieri.

To the cultists that follow Rhode Island talk radio. Wake up! Carcieri is not for the common man. If you need a ride to Butler Hospital, let me know.

Blog On

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Carcieri Plots to Destroy Rhode Island

Governor Donald Carcieri of Rhode Island is continuing his disastrous path towards destroying this State. Today, he is releasing his proposed budget. On top of the deficit problem of greater than $400 million, our enlightened governor wants to "en-lighten" our pockets some more. It has been reported that he is actually proposing to end corporate taxes in Rhode Island. His proposals would reduce revenue to government by an estimated $130 million annually.

Carcieri's proposals have no hint of a positive outcome. Seems like it's just the Republican thing to do. Thank you Herbert Hoover! Please; somebody tell me why corporations should not be paying taxes. Please; tell me that this is somehow good, without the conservative mantra that is the nonsense of fools. My dog I think is smarter than some of the people generating these ideas. I'm not kidding!

Let me look at a local situation and you be the judge. Amgen, a local drug manufacture has been operating a facility in nearby West Greenwich, the town next door to where I live. Things looked quite well on the corporate side in 2005 (See the report of the CEO) when their drug Enbrel hit the market. Imagine what happened a few years later in 2007 (See the report from the Providence Journal) when one third of the work force had to be eliminated? Boom to bust in no time and who has been left with damage control? The citizens of Coventry, my home town.

You see, for Amgen to build where they did, many things had to happen. Those "things" are called the construction of infrastructure. Amgen sits in the next town, but the sewer line had to go through my community. Amgen provided some funding for the sewer line, but the citizens of Coventry have been left to struggle with the consequences. New sewer, new water links, roads in constant state of disrepair; but more importantly, business along Route 3 has been devastated by constant upheaval. I've spoken to business owners along this stretch and they are not happy.

So let me get this straight. Amgen, which required connection to the sewer system and sewage treatment plants, which required the development of expanded water capabilities in the community, which required the endless paving of roads (you know it never happens once), which blighted my town's business district for 3 years (Because nobody could move around all of the construction), which promised jobs for us all, which laid off 450 employees after the promise of jobs (just 2 years later), should not pay any state taxes? Is this what you're saying Governor?

Now Amgen sold product all over the world. We saw ads everywhere for their drug, Enbrel. Governor Carcieri is now telling us that, we the good citizens of Coventry, have to foot the bill all by ourselves. Can't collect any taxes here. Who cares if the government has to build sewer lines and new waste water treatment facilities and roads? Let the corporation make money from all over the world and, "to hell with Rhode Island". We will let the good people of Coventry pay the bills so Amgen can make profit from everywhere. Why should the people from Europe have to contribute to our little State?

To hell with this Republican philosophy. My taxes would be considerably less if Amgen were never built near my community. That's right; study after study has pointed to the illusion of development lowering property taxes. Governor Carcieri; my property taxes have increased because of you, your foolishness and Amgen.

"And I can see Russia; no I mean Amgen, from my backyard". I can; I really can. Sorry Sarah; I could not resist.

Blog On

Monday, March 9, 2009

Wisdom from the Woods

Wisdom from the Woods will be an occasional column that outlines some complex issues.

Why the woods? Why not! In the woods we can all gather our thoughts and gain new perspective. I've learned a lot about myself every time I head for the forest. I know I'm not alone and I know that mankind has used the natural world to refocus on the artificial world around us. I'm lucky to have a very special spot in my own back yard. The ledge on my property has not only been a source of inspiration for me, it's been an inspiration for others for many centuries.

In future posts I'll share new photos of this unique natural feature that archaeologists have told me is quite significant. Native Americans used this site to celebrate the change of seasons. The evidence of past ceremonial activity is striking.

Why am I here today? I can't figure out for the life of me where $15 trillion in U.S. wealth went to almost overnight. That's $50 thousand for each man, woman and child in America. That's not far from reality when I look at my own situation. It's almost as if we have been all living one giant Ponzi scheme, and Bernie Madoff was a minor player.

If $15 trillion disappeared from the economy, why does anyone question the need for government to infuse a few trillion in an effort to recover? We all criticize government when the answer is, print new money. Where was the criticism when the great private sector in this Nation was busy creating phony wealth. You know what, nobody cared because people had a sense that they were all getting rich. The greed caught up with all of us.

Let's lend the government some support here and understand that infusing some money into the system is a necessary step to move us forward again. My only fear is that the government is not going far enough because of false Republican impressions regarding economic recovery. I'll head to the ledge whenever I can't seem to figure things out. While I don't have all the answers, I've found that nature has established that balance to move forward each season. We all need to establish that balance ourselves. The economy needs to establish that balance.

Blog On

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Taxpayer: A Totally Useless Word

Yes, that's right; the word taxpayer is a totally useless term. It means absolutely nothing. Do you realize how often the word is getting tossed around these days; as if it separates people in society? It's comparable to saying, I'm a "breathing" person. You know what? If alive; then you're breathing. If alive; then you're paying taxes. I know some pay more tax than others, but who has any right to claim they're somehow better than anyone else because of that obnoxious phase; "I pay taxes".

Even folks in our country that may not be paying a property tax because they don't own a house, pay taxes through their rent. They just can't claim it. Ever notice that those that may be down on their luck can still find money to pay for cigarettes and lottery tickets? Some people that choose to pay taxes in this way may very well be contributing well beyond their personal means.

Having worked as a public official, I can't tell you how many times I had to field complaints from citizens about something on state property that went wrong. Inevitably, I would wait for that infamous line; "I'm a taxpayer". Politicians use it, newspapers use it, every citizen uses it; and, it means nothing. And when confronted with that phase; my response to citizens would be, "that word means nothing; now let's talk about your problem". At which point, the caller would then begin the argument about their role in paying taxes.

OK, I do get a pension. My property tax last year was $8000 and it would have been higher if I did not have my acreage enrolled in the Farm, Forest and Open Space Program. My Fire tax and excise tax combined was $1100. I have yet to mention my income tax, Federal and State. There is sales tax, gas tax, registry fees, meal tax, hotel tax, tolls and by the end of the year, I have paid tens of thousands of dollars in tax. That caller on the end of the line must have actually thought that government employees pay no tax. Well, we may have derived our income from a public source, but we all gave it right back like everyone else.

Everyone listen: Please stop using the term,"taxpayers". It means nothing and if you use it, you just sound stupid.

Blog On

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Random Reasoning's IV

An occasional column of random thoughts and observations.
  1. This week's poll results: The economy will turn around by the end of; 2009 - 9%, 2010 - 64%, 2011 - 27%, It may take 10 years - 0%.
  2. Did you see the report this week that shows 1 in 31 Americans are currently somewhere in the correction system. Georgia was on top of the list with 1 in 13 and New Hampshire was at the bottom with 1 in 88 (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/29469360/).
  3. Get well Barbara Bush.
  4. Speaking of Barbara; where the hell were all the Bush kids when their mother was undergoing life threatening surgery? I don't care what she told them, those kids needed to be there to support their Dad.
  5. Thank you Rachael Madow for drawing the line from the peanut poisonings directly to Ronald Reagan's privatization universe. Did you hear? A private company was hired to do the FDA inspections because private companies can do it better? When I was a kid and the government did its job, I don't remember any peanut poisonings.
  6. Did you see that another report has found it to be far cheaper to keep murderers in prison for life than to execute them? The real problem is murderers getting out of jail after life sentences(http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/29552692/).
  7. A 9 year old girl in Brazil that had been raped by her stepfather got pregnant with twins. The court ordered an abortion and the Catholic Church officials have excommunicated the mother and doctors (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/29531755).
  8. I think God just excommunicated the responsible church officials!
  9. Mr. family values President George W.; you should have been there, you have time on your hands.
  10. A new gem from Michael Steele: If Republicans want to return to the heights of power, they have to stop trying to be, "cool and hip in a democrat way". Huh!! Mitch McConnell; stop being sooo cooool!
  11. After the Great Depression, Republicans returned to power by relying on a steady and middle of the road, Dwight David Eisenhower. Something tells me they can't learn from the past.
  12. What's up with Obama and Howard Dean?
  13. Scientists just discovered a 1.5 million year old human footprint (size 9) in Northern Kenya. That footprint must belong to Mike Huckabee's grandfather.
  14. Hey Boehner (you Bone - er), Obama is not asking me to pay additional taxes, he's asking you.
  15. Can the economy grow forever?
  16. Check out Bill Maher's "Ode To Government" video in the left hand column.
Blog On

Friday, March 6, 2009

Stephen Laffey: You Don't Have a Clue!

The good news today was that Stephen Laffey, former Mayor of Cranston and senatorial candidate has decided not to run for Governor. Laffey is only capable of two things: raising every one's blood pressure and continually raising people's taxes under the guise of fiscal conservatism. The better news is that Lincoln Chafee is seriously considering a run at Governor as an Independent.

In the Providence Journal yesterday, Mr. Laffey provided all of us with an outrageous editorial regarding his vision for the State. Seems like he wants to totally close down the State Employee Pension System and tell thousands of Rhode Islanders; tough luck. The consequences of such an action would thrust Rhode Island into 1933.

What does Mr. Laffey think retired workers do with their money; and I do stress the word "their"? They spend it Mr. Laffey. Almost every penny of it is going right back to the State, the Community and every business. Take this economic engine away, and business after business will fail. Rhode Island will never recover. You know why, Mr. Laffey? The thousands of former public employees that are an integral part of our community will have to move to states without income taxes, where housing can be found for less cost, and where property taxes are significantly lower. You may say "good riddance's" Mr. Laffey; unfortunately, Rhode Island will become an impoverished and blighted landscape. The State would no longer have a tremendous asset, the pension fund that is being used to shore up businesses. Rhode Island could no longer borrow money because they would lack the direct asset that the public employee pension system provides. You see, Mr. Laffey, that money in the system is not tax payer money - that money belongs to the public employees. The pension system is public employee money that has been put in the State's charge for mutual benefit.

You can not solve this fiscal problem by focusing on a tiny piece of the annual budget. The State contribution to the fund is slightly over 3% of a $7 billion budget. If you're getting your pencil out, stop counting the employee contributions as taxpayer money. I don't own a piece of your 401K and you don't own a piece of my pension.

On top of the State House in Rhode Island is the statue of the "Independent Man". I think we need to put the "Independent Man" in the State House, and that is Lincoln Chafee. Mr. Laffey, you can move to Florida. I prefer to stay here, pay my taxes, spend my money in the community and help my State.

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Thursday, March 5, 2009

Corporate Taxation - The Door to Bipartisanship?

It has been reported that two out of every three United States corporations paid no Federal income taxes from 1998 through 2005. (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/13/business/13tax.html?em). This has to be the most unbelievable financial statistic that is affecting our Country according to Democrats. Do you ever wonder where President Obama can find revenue to work toward deficit reduction? This will certainly help to resolve some economic woes. This is a true Democratic solution; every corporation pays its fair share.

Solve the problem of corporations that pay no taxes and the end is in site! Not so fast. Republicans say that the United States has the highest corporate taxation rate in the world, at 35%. Corporations that are patriotic and keep Americans working here have unfair competition in a world economy. You know what? Republicans are right. We have a dilemma; Democrats are right and Republicans are right?

What a chance for a bipartisan solution. Why not make sure that all corporations in America, foreign and domestic, are paying a fair share of taxes. Lower the taxation rate for the corporations that stand by this Country and reward them for their patriotism. Lower their taxes so they can hire more workers. Come down hard on any corporation doing business in this Country that is not paying taxes. Lower the rate of taxation to a competitive rate, but make no doubt about it, all corporations in the United States will pay taxes.

This will reward the true Americans that care about our Nation and ensure that anyone doing business here will contribute. This to me is bipartisanship. Both sides of the political spectrum can make their point. They are both right! We may actually be able to solve some fiscal problems as we address corporate taxation policy.

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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Bipartisanship Can Be Real

A letter to the Editor in today's Providence Journal postulates that efforts towards bipartisanship are futile. David W Swindells, concludes with the following: "Bipartisanship is a chimera - a futile and juvenile hope."

His comments saddened me and sent me back in history to a time of true bipartisanship; although, I have seen it at work in the present day (Thank you Charlie Crist and others). An era of true bipartisanship was at work during the administrations of Franklin Roosevelt (FDR).

Being a forester by profession, I hasten back to the words of the "Father of Forestry" in the United States, Gifford Pinchot, in his signature work, "Breaking New Ground". Pinchot, the Republican, wholeheartedly endorsed FDR, the Democrat, and supported him throughout his administrations. Pinchot not only served under the Republican administration of Teddy Roosevelt, he also served as Republican Governor in Pennsylvania. Let me just repeat some of Pinchot's words:

"Concentrated wealth can only maintain its strangle hold over the general welfare if it can get the people to accept its exactions, and especially the methods by which it gets its power, as normal and natural........The monopolists must accustom people to their tyranny by a constant stream of praise for great corporations and of free enterprise according to their own interpretation, as well as discrediting of liberal movements and leaders - all of which is facilitated by their ever increasing control of press, the radio, and other news outlets."

"But in the hearts of the American people democracy has not been denied. The four freedoms of Franklin Roosevelt - Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Worship, Freedom from Want, and Freedom from Fear - have, I'm confident, been accepted by those whom Abraham Lincoln called the plain people, accepted as their right, and no more than their right. If that is true, we have come to a turning point."

"I believe in free enterprise - freedom for the common man to think and work and rise to the limit of his ability, with due regard to the rights of others. But in what Concentrated Wealth means by free enterprise - freedom to use and abuse the common man - I do not believe. I object to the law of the jungle. The earth, I repeat, belongs of right to all its people, and not to a minority , insignificant in numbers but tremendous in wealth and power. The public good must come first."

These are the words of a true Republican. I only wish that today's Republicans would study their past, understand that bipartisanship can be a positive force and that our very Country may depend on the willingness of leaders to reason and think beyond ideology.

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Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Republicans Embrace Foolishness

I just googled, "CPAC and Limbaugh" and got the inevitable notice at the top of the page; "Did you mean: Crap and Limbaugh?" I kid you not. I guess they are interchangeable. You know what that means? More people are googling "Crap and Limbaugh", than the "CPAC" (Conservative Political Action Committee) version of the search.

A lot was made of Rush's comments the other day when he accused President Obama of bastardizing The Constitution. Many folks heard that he included the Declaration of Independence, or his bastardized version of that document within The Constitution. His words were: "Life, liberty, freedom and the pursuit of happiness." Sorry Rush; not in The Constitution. While attention was paid to this political gaff, I think political pundits missed the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

While accusing President Obama of destroying The Constitution, this is what Rush had to say: "So is it so strange about saying I want Barack Obama to fail if his mission is to reconstruct and reform this Nation so that capitalism and individual liberty are not its foundation?" That's quite the accusation when you consider that The Constitution makes no mention of "capitalism" whatsoever(Click on the U.S. Constitution link on the left side of the blog if you want to read it for yourself).

Article 1: Section 8: outlines the government's power to collect taxes; ".....and provide for the common defense and welfare of the United States.........". It goes on to state: "To borrow money on the credit of the United States." This Article grants powers to make "rules" and "regulate" in many places. It also authorizes Congress "....to make all the laws...." There is no mention of a capitalist Nation in our founding documents. I'm not opposed to Capitalism, but it looks like our Founders were smart enough to know that rules and regulations would be necessary to create a Nation that could stand among Nations. If you want to talk Liberty; Rush, who the hell has been squashing American liberties during the past 8 years? Who has been bastardizing The Constitution?

The sad thing is that many Republicans are embracing all of this sick rhetoric. I guess you can't expect that much from a Party that listens to a Joe Wurzelbacher; AKA, "Joe the Plumber". Now there's a man that knows little beyond flushing a toilet.

I can only pursue my happiness when 99% of you Republicans stand up for our Constitution and realize the Rush Limbaugh's and Joe Wurzelbacher's are the frauds that hurt our Country.

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Monday, March 2, 2009

Addition of Favorite Progressive Sites

Today I did some more site maintenance and added a feature that progressive people will enjoy. In the left column you will find direct links to some of my favorite sites.

The Huffington Post is a must for daily news if you want to get the truth on a range of political issues and breaking news stories. You should definitely check out this site if you have never been to it before.

Countdown With Keith Olbermann is next and is probably my favorite news show. It's on nightly on MSNBC at 8:00PM and is a great counterbalance to the news shows on Fox. This site is a series of video links to his stories.

The Whitehouse.gov site is President Obama's new web site and is just full of information directly from the horse's mouth, not Rush Limbaugh, the horse's ass.

A new site that I just found is RIFuture.org that is a very well done blog of progressive Rhode Island politics. Heck, if I knew this was here, I may not be blogging myself. Only kidding, I still intend to blog on. It does have an interesting feature that I could point people to; click on the picture of Donald Carcieri with the word "fail" across it. This will lead you to a site that is trying to enroll people in a recall effort of the Governor.

The final addition is a link that will take you directly to the U.S. Constitution. This will come in extra handy when your conservative friends misquote our founding documents. Rush Limbaugh, are you listening?

Enjoy the links, but please return to Governing Against The Tide.

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Sunday, March 1, 2009

Random Reasoning's lll

An occasional column of random thoughts and observations.

  1. Results of this week's poll question; Will Obama get Osama? Yes: 40%, Maybe: 40%, No: 7%, He's dead: 13%.
  2. Have you noticed that I have established a link to the top stories on CNN in the left column of the blog?
  3. Where was Antonin Scalia during President Obama's first speech to the full Congress this week? Was he out hunting with Dick Cheney again? Who knows what he's plotting?
  4. Is the publishing industry the next to go down the drain in this Country? Ever notice that they chase you for your subscription renewal a year before it's due? They seem to be in a big hurry to get your money and they spend more money on mailings than the cost of the subscription.
  5. If you are liberal, the Huffington Post is the site you want www.huffingtonpost.com . It should be bookmarked and visited every day.
  6. At least credit card promos have trickled to a crawl.
  7. Ever notice that throughout history, science always trumps religion.
  8. Chipmunks awakened from hibernation on Thursday (a lot of them and all on the same day).
  9. Can somebody please get Rush Limbaugh some more chill pills?
  10. Can Eric Cantor say anything that is right? Oh ya, that's right; he is right; right?
  11. Is it treason when a U.S. Senator ( Senator Richard Shelby, Alabama) questions the citizenship of a U.S. President when he knows damn well it has been proven over and over again that he was born in Hawaii? Is Shelby a real American?
  12. If Bernie Madoff robbed the Cumberland Farms store of $200, he would be in prison now.
  13. George Bush on his own Presidency: That was hard work, it was hard work, hard work!
  14. Extinction is a natural process in the evolutionary chain.
  15. Watch out Republicans: the Party of "No" just might stick! No sense, no logic, no cooperation, no votes. Extinction?
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