Thursday, May 31, 2007

NBA: Why Are the Pistons Struggling?

While you can point a lot of fingers in the Cleveland-Detroit series for why Detroit is losing games, I think you really have to look at coaching. Lebron drives time and time again down the lane with token resistance. You can see the frustration on Billups and Prince's faces when the double-team comes late or not at all after they've funneled him left like they want. Saunders talks about trapping James to get the ball out of his hands, but that only worked a couple of times before Cleveland adjusted to it. Aside from that, if trapping was the solution, why were they not doing more of it, earlier in game 5 or even game 4.

The real problem is Wallace is the only guy in the rotation capable of challenging James at the rim, but for whatever reason, he's not in the game much. McDyess usually does a decent job in reserve and brings a lot of offense and rebounding, but he was out tonight due to a ridiculous flagrant II foul call. As much as I've enjoyed watching Webber over the years, he's far too slow at this stage in his career to defend adequately against James. And Maxiell? He just misses the defensive rotations.

With McDyess out tonight, though, Saunders' incompetence was exposed. He has Dale Davis sitting on that bench night after night and doesn't use him? Give me a break. On defense and rebounding, this guy is one of the best 4's to play the game. He may be old, but he's always been in phenomenal shape and still seems to have some spring in his step.

When he came into the game, what happened? Lebron began struggling at the rim. And his reward for playing well on defense? Saunders plays him 8 minutes and Maxiell 30 minutes. How many times did Maxiell fail to rotate in the 4th quarter and overtime? How often did Webber let James slip past too easily on the pick and roll? If Davis is in the game in either overtime, Lebron at the very least has to earn his points at the line. At best, he forces Lebron into a tough shot or blocks the shot.

So's some advice. Sit Maxiell's rotation-missing butt on the bench during crunch time and put in the wiley, old veteran who looked anything but old tonight.


Bush Administration Doesn't Want a Safe Food Supply????

In a million years, I didn't think I'd regurgitate something from the John Edwards Blog, but this article demonstrates just how far the Republican Party and, more specifically, the Bush Administration have come from the ideal of small government.

In short, Creekstone Farms Premium Beef planned to test *ALL* of their cattle for Mad Cow disease. What did the Bush Administration do? They took Creekstone to court in an attempt to prevent them from performing the tests. The reason? Brace yourselves...a possible false positive. The real reason? Probably big meat companies not wanting to pay for tests to remain competitive. The Bush Administration lost in court, but they decided to...wait for it...appeal. Go figure...

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Seeking Alpha Pits Apple against Microsoft's Surface Computing

While my head is still spinning a bit from being impressed with a Microsoft product demo, Carl Howe at Seeking Alpha prefers to play Apple fanboy. Now, as I said, I've played OS/2 fanboy in my life so I know how the cult can work, but it's better to judge technology on its merits than waste effort pushing an emotional preference.

In his article How Apple Will Trump Microsoft, Howe first argues that consumer excitement about the iPhone is due to multi-touch. I hate to burst his bubble, but the excitement is about merging two devices into one, the phone and iPod.

Multi-touch is actually the huge question mark around the iPhone. Let me explain. I have a bit of a DIY home entertainment system consisting of Linux machines running MythTV. Because infrared remotes are a bit of a pain, I wrote a little Java Servlet to process commands from a browser, connect to MythTV or Xine, and execute the commands. My "remote" is a Sharp Zaurus. You know what I discovered after I wrote this interface? Using an interface where you can't learn the buttons by touch is really inconvenient.

How many of us look at our tv remotes to change channels? Now imagine if your remote could reorganize its buttons for each different function you used? Obviously, we'd get a lot more functionlity, but would it be at the cost of usability? In my experience, the answer is yes. Multi-touch is the iPhone's achilles heel. Its strengths are Apple design, iPod/phone convergence, and a decent Internet interface.

To end the article, Mr. Howe asks the question, "Apple isn't doing anything with multi-touch for computers, is it?" His answer? "Wait a few weeks." This is the kind of thing I would expect from Microsoft, not Apple. Of course, it's not from Apple. It's from some random, Apple stock owner writing for a blog.


Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The LA Times Lets Edwards Have It

Oddly enough, Edwards' own blog gave me this link.

John Edwards' poor scam

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Microsoft's Home Run

I'm not sure how vocal I've been about it on this blog, but I'm a long-time Microsoft detractor. For years, I was an OS/2 user and even enjoyed playing around in comp.os.os2.advocacy from time to time. In fact, to this day, I prefer OS/2 as a client platform to OS X (my day-to-day work platform), Linux (pick a desktop, they're all pathetic), and Windows. It was maybe 4 years ago that they finally pried OS/2 away from me.

Anyway, back to the point. Microsoft...bad, bad, evil, derivative, unoriginal...sorry, wrong post.

Microsoft has come out with a product that you have to see to believe. Digg links us to Gizmodo for this morning's Today Show demonstration. If you don't watch the demo, you'll be saying they have touch-screen interfaces at every restaurant chain in America. At least, that's what I was saying. After watching the video, all I can think about is buying stock. It's as if Bill Gates watched Minority Report and told his R&D department to get as close as they could.

Head over to Microsoft's Surface site to check it out. The site doesn't work worth a flip in Firefox, but oh well. Them's the breaks with Microsoft. I lost my moral authority to gripe about product tie-ins when I joined the Apple camp.


Pardon the Mess

I'm going to be installing a new design today. Of course, given that it's my own design, it will still be a mess once I'm done, but oh well. What can I say? I was built for math, not art.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Hypocrite Series: Barack on Darfur

In a blog post, blogger Sam Graham-Felsen quotes Barack's response to President Bush's announcement of sanctions on the Sudanese government. In his response, Obama recommends a UN force, no-fly zone, and oil industry sanctions. Isn't this same interventionist foreign policy that got us into Iraq? And, unless I'm wrong, Barack doesn't much like being in Iraq...

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Hypocrite Series: Senator Clinton's "Plan for Stengthening the Middle Class"

Let me start by saying I appreciate Senator Clinton's willingness to give specifics as to the policies she would like to see implemented. With the exception of John Edwards, the rest of the field could learn from her. Quit with the soundbites and give us some real information.

Anyway, let's look at Hillary's Plan for Strengthening the Middle Class.

1. Leveling the playing field and reducing special breaks for big corporations. That means scaling back oil and gas subsidies; allowing Medicare to negotiate lower prices with big drug companies; and requiring big oil companies to either invest in alternative energy or pay into the Strategic Energy Fund to spur clean energy research and development.

I think it's the understatement of the century that there should be no oil and gas subsidies. Those guys seem to be doing just fine on their own. I'm not sure why government needs to be involved at all. It's really silly when you think about it. The government subsidizes oil and gas to reduce the cost and turns right back around and taxes it. I know one's federal and the other state, but you get the idea.

An argument can be made that development of alternative energy impacts national security so even though I would normally be against government getting involved, I can see where it might play a role. However, adding further regulations to big oil companies seems a bad approach to take. Let's get the government out of the mix, watch gas prices skyrocket, and then alternative energy will develop on its own.

We've already covered Senator Clinton's Medicare plan so I won't address it again here.

2. Eliminating incentives for American companies to ship jobs and profits overseas. Specifically, the tax code rewards companies for offshoring jobs by enabling them to defer paying American taxes for as long as they hold the money abroad. The current policy puts companies that create jobs in America at a competitive disadvantage. We must pursue tax policies that reward the decision to create jobs in America, rather than abroad.

It's hard for me to argue with that logic. Unfortunately, I'm not sure I know enough to weigh in much more on the issue, but I certainly don't like seeing companies ship their headquarters overseas in an effort to reduce their U.S. tax exposure. Maybe if we had a better tax system, say a national retail sales tax, this wouldn't be an issue at all.

3. Reforming the governance of corporations and the financial sector. It is inconsistent with our values to allow CEO pay to skyrocket while workers’ wages and benefits are under threat. There needs to be greater public scrutiny of CEO pay, and more independence of Boards of Directors.

Why meddle with CEO salaries? Let the shareholders and employees deal with it internally. It's none of my business how much Lou Gerstner made at IBM because I neither work there nor own stock. If it bothers me, I won't buy their products. Simple as need for government involvement whatsoever.

4. Restoring fiscal responsibility to government. That means balancing the budget; saving Social Security; reducing our dependence on foreign creditors (e.g.China); returning high-income tax rates to the 1990s levels; reforming the AMT; and ensuring that corporations pay their fair share of taxes.

This is really a mixed bag. Balancing the budget? You betcha. Saving Social Security? Throw the idiotic, unconstitutional mess out with the bathwater. Reducing dependence on foreign creditors? Sure, why not? Increase taxes? No thanks. Reforming the AMT? How about we, oh...let me think...eliminate income tax in favor of a national retail sales tax? Ensure corporations pay their fair share of taxes? Well...if them's the laws, corporations should follow them.

5. Give every young person an opportunity to attend college, and ensure that education starts early in life and continues into adulthood. College should be made more affordable so that students of all backgrounds can attend. Also, every child should have ready access to high quality pre-K.

Ah, the feel-good goal. Don't you feel all warm inside taking care of the children?

6. More support for community colleges and alternative schools.We should expand regional skills alliances to ensure workers have the valuable skills they need.

Oops, we weren't done with touchy-feely goodness yet.

7. Help working people earn enough to support their families and help them save for the future. That means simplifying and expanding the EITC; overhauling the unemployment insurance system; and making it easier for workers to join unions.

Alright, it's go time.

Expanding the EITC? EITC stands for Earned Income Tax Credit, and it is basically a form of welfare. When you qualify, the government often ends up paying you at tax time, not the other way around. As I've said, I don't support the current tax system, but the EITC is just wrong. Raise minimum wages if you want, but don't pull this slight of hand garbage.

As to unions, all they do in this day and age is drive up prices and encourage companies to ship jobs overseas. Employees should be able to form unions if they want, but the government shouldn't be getting in and mixing the pot. I'm sure this is an attempt to take a shot at Wal-Mart who has been and will likely always be anti-union. If you want to have some fun, try sitting Wal-Mart and a union at the same table during a completely unrelated event and watch what happens when they discover each other.

Back to the point...I've had the opportunity of working with both unionized and non-unionized workers. I was always an independent 3rd party either at a hotel or convention center so I wasn't biased either way. In a unionized city, we were forced to:

  • Pay unionized bell staff to move boxes.

  • Pay unionized convention center staff to flip light switches on and off.

  • Hire unionized convention center staff to work spotlights, sound systems, etc. for our event EVEN IF WE HAD OUR OWN STAFF FOR THE TASK.

On top of that, the fees weren't cheap. We could have a guy sitting around for a 2 hour rehersal being paid some $75/hour just to turn the light switch on and off a couple times. Is this the purpose of a union? No. The purpose of a union is to improve worker conditions, not to protect them from competition or protect them for incompetence.

8. Ensure that every American has quality, affordable health care.It is intolerable that 45 million Americans are without health insurance, particularly considering that we are spending nearly $500 billion on the war in Iraq.

It's the ol' bait and switch. Quality, affordable health care does not necessarily equate to health insurance. Nevertheless, I see the point and agree with it...just don't care much for the inference of the justification.

9. Make investments necessary for creating new jobs. New job sources are needed to preserve and expand the middle class. Investments in alternative energy can create new jobs for the 21st century; expanded access to broadband will bring opportunities to underserved/disadvantaged communities; the manufacturing base can be re-energized through creative partnerships; and innovation—with increased government support for R&D—will help us find and develop the jobs of tomorrow.

This has to be the biggest, steaming pile of excrement I've read in a while.

How does alternative energy create new jobs? We want to move away from pollution producing energy like oil and coal, don't we? If we do, what are those people going to do? You guessed it...take jobs in alternative energy. There's no net gain here.

How does broadband bring new opportunities to communities? There's no inherent job creation implied there. Re-energized manufacturing base through creative partnerships? I said excrement above, didn't I? Good...let's move on.

The last point is particularly troublesome. Why should government increase support for R&D? In fact, increasing means that the government already does support R&D. Why? That's beyond the scope of what our government was built to do. As citizens, we can support R&D by investing in companies. We don't need the government to take our money and do what they think is right.

So, all in all, this really isn't too bad for a Democrat. We have some big government initiatives, but Senator Clinton sounds better than President Bush by a mile simply for mentioning a balanced budget. I know President Bush pays it lip service, but his actions speak volumes.

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Friday, May 25, 2007

Sad Realization

Thomas Jefferson said:

When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.

In a recent city utility bill, the government included a notice about a new ambulance program where utility customers automatically have $4 added to their bill each month to cover emergency transports. If you've read much of my blog, you know that I don't believe the government should be providing such a program, but it is the type of thing I will accept as the will of the majority. Nevertheless, this program is...are you ready for this...OPT-OUT. That's right, you have to opt-out, not opt-in or enroll. To add insult to injury, you can only opt-out during June. After June, you're enrolled for 12 months. If you do opt-out, you have to continue to opt-out every year in June.

I'm not going to go over all of the problems I have with the city's scheme. Suffice it to say, I found it ill-conceived and deceptive. As such, I began writing a letter to the Mayor this evening to voice my concerns. Toward the end of the letter, I started wondering how the letter might affect my family and my business. Who would the mayor share it with? How might they react? Might someone decide to make our lives difficult?

I decided to delete the letter instead of sending it, and it suddenly occurred to me. I'm afraid of my own government...

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On CNN This Morning: Secret Spending of Tax Money

This video has to be seen to be believed:

Secret Spending of Tax Money

Is this really a representative government if our congressional representatives wield this kind of power? My appreciation to Senator Coburn for condemning the status quo and calling out a couple of Democrats for their hypocrisy.

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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Hypocrite Series: Clinton on Health Care Reform

As we all know, Senator Clinton has a checkered past with the U.S. Health Care system. I honestly have no idea what she proposed during President Clinton's term in office. I just know that everyone, Democrats included, seemed to dislike it. Whatever the case may have been, a blog post this morning promotes her new agenda for lowering health care costs:

Hillary Clinton Announces Agenda to Lower Health Care Costs and Improve Value for All Americans (PDF)

Where John Edwards gave us some big and, dare I say, sensible changes to the Health Care system as it stands now, Senator Clinton seems more inclined to nibble at the edges and play it safe. It's a 7-step strategy:

  1. Create a Groundbreaking National Prevention Initiative to Reduce the Incidence of Such Diseases as Diabetes and Cancer that Impose Huge Human and Financial Costs

  2. Institute a New “Paperless” Health Information Technology System

  3. Transform Care of Today’s Chronically Ill Population to Improve Outcomes and Decrease Costs

  4. End Insurance Discrimination to Help Reduce Administrative Costs

  5. Create an Independent "Best Practices Institute to Empower Consumers, Providers and Health Plans to Make the Right Care Choices

  6. Implement Smart Purchasing Initiatives to Constrain Excess Prescription Drug and Managed Care Expenditures

  7. Put in Place Common-Sense Medical Malpractice Reforms

As you can see just reading the overview, this is really a mixed bag of political mumbo-jumbo and actual changes. A groundbreaking what? When you have to tag market-speak onto your initiative, it probably means there's not much to it. Best Practices Institute? Is this Marketing Ed 101 or what? Smart purchasing initiatives? Thanks for clarifying they wouldn't be dumb. Of course, in her defense on the last one, most government purchasing initiatives are pretty dumb, aren't they? Strike that one...good clarification there.

Anyway, let's move on a discuss some of the good and bad points we have here. Senator Clinton seems most interested in addressing cost. In step 1, she wants to reduce the incidence of diseases like diabetes and cancer. This groundbreaking initiative is implemented in two ways.

  1. All insurers must participate in federal prevention programs which would include eliminating copays on high-priority prevention services.

  2. Spend money through some stupid beauracracy...I'm paraphrasing here.

Focusing on prevention really isn't a bad idea for reigning in costs, but what do her proposals really accomplish? Just because my insurer offers a free Colonoscopy doesn't mean I'm going to take it. And, if my Doctor doesn't tell me I need a physical, I'm not going to volunteer just because it's free. As far as spending money, do we really believe a few million more through Department of Waste My Hard Earned Money is going to accomplish anything? Pushing money through an agency is just a feel-good way for politicians to pretend like they accomplished something. What's more, all of these arguments ignore the fact that the federal government is not meant to act as my damn caregiver.

Moving on...let's talk about Senator Clinton's paperless IT system. Everyone seems to be on this bandwagon which surprises me since they probably aren't in the trenches handling any health care paperwork. Needless to say, though, the system is ridiculously antiquated and overly burdensome to operate. The problem is that you have to walk the right-to-privacy vs. efficiency lines.

What I want to see, though, is a Doctor's office who can tell me how much I owe when I leave my appointment. I shouldn't have to wait 2 months to find out how much the Doctor discounted for the insurance company or how much the insurance company covered. I should be able to plop down my money at the end of the appointment and neither the Doctor nor I worry about invoicing and payment down the line. I'm not sure if Senator Clinton's proposal wants to go this far, but whatever the approach, we need more and better IT behind health care to reduce costs and reduce headaches for all involved.

Senator Clinton's chronic care initiative sounds like market-speak even in the details section. There's very little substance to it, and it's probably put there just to win some Senior votes.

Step-4 would end insurance discrimination to help reduce administrative costs. Now, I do like what this would accomplish as my wife would be insurable, and we would have more options for how to live our lives. However, I really don't like the fact that she said the purpose was to "reduce administrative costs". Maybe they're trying to win over the insurers with this (I doubt it), but I want it to say "end insurance discrimination because it's stupid" or something along those lines.

Okay, so now we're at blah-blah-Best Practices-blah-blah. Not even worth my time to read...

In step-6, Senator Clinton wants to constrain prescription drug expenses. It would be nice if this section included some sort of patent system reform, but unfortunately, it doesn't. It does, however, hint at some possible patent reform in attempting to remove barriers to generic competition by removing loopholes exploited by prescription drug companies to prevent generic competition. Since prescription drug companies typically abuse the patent system to keep out competition, I'm going to assume Senator Clinton wants to fix that but just doesn't want to say that's how she's fixing it. Sneaky...

The rest of this section is just marketing b.s. with the exception of letting Medicare negotiate prices. This must only be an issue due to campaign contributions, bribes, lobbying, and who knows what other underhanded dealings between politicians and the drug industrty. Medicare constrains costs on everything except prescription drugs. It's high time the government constrain prescription drug costs.

And last but not least, Senator Clinton wants to put in place malpractice reform. Of course, she doesn't want to admit Republicans were right about this in the previous election, but I'm sure she's studied health care enough to know malpractice insurance is a major burden for Doctors. Reforming the system would be a good thing for Doctors, but I'm not sure her "National Medical Error Disclosure and Compensation Act" will work. Regardless, I'll give her the benefit of the doubt and call it an okay idea.

That about sums it up. It's not great, but it's not terrible either. It's a far cry from the kind of socialized health care system a lot of us expected, and it does solve a couple of very basic problems in the system as it exists now. Compared to Edwards' plan, I think it's a loser, but picking between Clinton's and maintaining the status quo, I'll choose Senator Clinton's plan.

Now, as to the rest of the candidates save Ron Paul (who I'm sure would want to eliminate federal involvement in health care), let's hear some real proposals instead of campaign speak. Clinton and Edwards have given us details so put up or shut up.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Hypocrite Series: John Edwards' Health Care Plan

In browsing the blogs today, I came across this post about John Edwards' Health Care Plan. Written in the usual inane drivel fashion, I figured there would be no concrete plan to backup the blogger's assertions. Damn was I ever wrong, and here's the link:

John Edwards' Health Care Plan (PDF)

Now in my ideal world, Health Insurance would return to being just Insurance today isn't really insurance. It's more like a warranty where the two parties are in a contest to see who comes out ahead at the end of the warranty term. The difference is that the warranty provider in this case has a limited amount of knowledge about the warrantied device upon which to make a decision on the cost of the warranty. In some cases, they just won't sell the warranty to someone. In other cases, they raise the cost of the warranty to cover the worst case scenario so that they're always ahead at the end of the term.

Insurance, on the other hand, takes care of you when something catastrophic happens. We've lost track of that in this country, and we need to figure it out in all areas of insurance, not just health insurance. You don't use insurance to fix the crease you made in your bumper backing into a light post. You don't use insurance to replace a mailbox destroyed by the neighborhood houligans. And you certainly don't use insurance to pay for routine Doctor's visits, prescriptions, and tests. You use insurance when it's something big....a 2 week hospital stay, a stolen car, or a house destroyed by a tornado.

However, let's be realistic. Neither consumers nor insurers want to dramatically change the system we have today. It makes people happy to walk in, pay their $10 co-pay, see the Doctor, and walk out, and insurers love raking in the dough. If that's the kind of system the country wants, then let's evaluate Edwards' proposal in that context.

Edwards' proposal doesn't depart too far from what we have now, but it makes two dramatic changes. First, it establishes tax credits for health insurance. One of the great inequities of working in America right now is the fact that if you work for a large employer, you have access to pre-tax health insurance and what are called cafeteria plans. Effectively, you can pay almost all of your health expenses pre-tax. For those seeking private insurance (often small business employees), the situation isn't quite so rosey. There's a 7.5% floor below which you can't deduct any health expenses (unless, of course, you're self-employed). That means if you make $100,000 per year gross, you have to spend $7,500 after-tax before you can deduct. Needless to say, I agree 100% with Edwards' plan to provide equity in the tax system for health expenses.

The second major item in Edwards' plan is the establishment of Health Markets. Health Markets sound very much like what MediShare attempts to do for Christians except it does it on a much larger scale with the blessing and participation of the government. The great thing about this is that it allows small businesses to compete with big businesses for employees. Right now, my company can't hire anyone because it can't offer health insurance. We have just a handful of employees, and the owners have had health problems and have coverage through a separate group plan. Monthly premiums could easily top $1,000/month per employee so it's impractical. With Health Markets, businesses can establish their own coverage, establish coverage through a Health Market, or simply pay a portion of their employees' premiums. And, the most important part, is that the health market has to accept you regardless of pre-existing conditions. If we're going to do a warranty system, we need Health Markets or something like them to make it work.

Like I said, I disagree with the approach of extending health insurance as the American version of socialized medicine. It fails to let the market function as it should. If the consumer doesn't pay, they have no motivation to seek better prices or better service. Nevertheless, there are arguments on both sides, and I'm resigned to accept some level of socialism in health care as a result. If it's Edwards' plan or the current system, I'll take Edwards' plan.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Hypocrite Series: John Edwards Wants Mandatory Military Service

From Digg via the Washington Post, we get this quote:

One of the things we ought to be thinking about is some level of mandatory service to our country, so that everybody in America _ not just the poor kids who get sent to war _ are serving this country.

How do you address such ignorance and arrogance? If he's so committed to national service, has he served? Will he sign his kids up in the armed forces when they're eligible, or will he find an exemption? Regardless, it's not just the poor who go to war. Our army is a volunteer army, and whomever volunteers goes to war. And, isn't that the way it should be in a free country? In fact, I'm pretty sure the founders thought a standing army was a bad idea anyway so how do we get from there to mandatory service in the armed forces?

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Monday, May 21, 2007

Pat Buchanan on Paul vs. Giuliani

Read Buchanan's take on the Paul vs. Giuliani moment in the SC debate.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Hypocrite Series: Paul's Response to Giuliani in CNN Interview

He's slowly winning me over...

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Hypocrite Series: Rudy Giuliani vs. Ron Paul in the South Carolina Debate

One of the reasons I'm so disillusioned with American politics is because nobody seems to care what they say so long as it gets them either money or votes. Originally, I liked the idea of Giuliani winning the Republican nomination because I thought he might have a chance to win the general election. Given that I'm a smaller government style conservative, I wrongly thought Giuliani would be better than a larger government Democrat. Last night proved just how wrong I was, and I now ardently oppose Giuliani more than any candidate I've researched short of John Edwards. Let's look a little more at what happened last night.

Ron Paul was asked the following by one of the moderators:

Moderator: Congressman Paul, I believe you are the only man on stage who opposes the War in Iraq and would bring the troops home almost immediately sir. Are you out of step with your party? Is your party out of step with the world? If either of those is the case, why are you seeking its nomination?

In his answer, Paul explains how his position is traditional Republican and follows the will of the founders. Toward the end of that answer, he says this:

Paul: We shouldn't go to war so carelessly. When we do, the wars don't end.

Referring to interventionist policies, the moderator asks:

Moderator: And you don't think that changed after 9/11?

Paul answers:

Paul: No, non-intervention was a major contributing factor. Have you ever read about the reasons they attacked us? They attack us because we've been over there. We've been bombing Iraq for 10 years. We've been in the Middle East. I think Reagan was right. We don't understand the irrationality of Middle Eastern politics. Right now, we're building an embassy in Iraq that's bigger than the Vatican. We're building 14 permanent bases. What would we say here if China was doing this in our country or in the Gulf of Mexico? We would be objecting. We need to look at what we do from the perspective of what would happen if someone else did it to us.

Twisting Paul's words, the moderator follows up:

Moderator: Are you suggesting we invited the 9/11 attacks, sir?

Paul responds and clarifies:

Paul: I'm suggesting that we listen to the people who attacked us and the reason they did it. And they are delighted we're over there because Osama bin Laden has said, "I'm glad you're over on our sand because we can target you so much easier." They've already now since that time killed over 3,400 of our men, and I don't think it was necessary.

You'll notice Paul never said we invited the attack, but Giuliani jumps on the wording of the moderator:

Giuliani: That's an extraordinary statement. As someone who lived through the attack of September 11th that we invited the attack because we were attacking Iraq. I don't think I've ever heard that before, and I've heard some pretty absurd explanations for September 11th. And I would ask the Congressman to withdrawl that comment and tell us that he didn't mean that.

Most importantly, Giuliani lied to us right there. Immediately following the debate, he said the Saudi Royal Family (going from memory because I haven't found a clip or transcript...might have been someone else but whomever it was, they were from Saudi Arabia) said the same sort of thing. So, yes, he lied so he could grandstand. In fact, that comment to Hannity on the post-debate interview reinforces everything Paul said.

Paul responded this way:

Paul: I believe very sincerely that the CIA is correct when they talk and teach about blowback. When we went into Iran in 1953 and installed the Shaw. Yes, there was blowback. The reaction to that was the taking of our hostages. And if we ignore that, we ignore that at our own risk. If we think that we can do what we want around the world and not incite hatred, then we have a problem. They don't come here to attack us because we're rich and free. They attack us because we're over there. I mean, what would we think if other foreign countries were doing that to us.

So let's sum up. Paul says our behavior around the world can come back and bite us in the ass. Giuliani sees a chance for a sound-bite and twists Paul's words to make it sound like Paul was saying we deserved it. Paul then reinforces his point with Iran as an example showing how American interventionist policy results in problems for America around the world quite frequently.

Here are the facts:

  • We attempted to install our handpicked leader and government in Iran because of oil. They changed their government and took Americans hostage.

  • We financed and armed the mujahideen in Afghanistan against the USSR of whom bin Laden was a member, and we supported the Taliban's rise to power.

  • We supplied and supported Saddam Hussein in Iraq to counter the problem we created in Iran.

How can any reasonable person not believe our actions in the Middle East contributed to the hatred of America we see today? That doesn't mean the Americans killed on 9/11 deserved what they got. It just means that we (our government, the CIA, etc.) contributed to the climate necessary for 9/11 to happen. Giuliani's inability or unwillingness to grasp that simple concept concerns me, and I can't in good conscience support him as a candidate.

I have two problems with Paul's position in this area:

  1. We can't fix what we've done simply by pulling out of the Middle East. They will still hate us, and they will still want to kill us.

  2. His own statements demonstrate the success in Iraq. The terrorists like having a closer target, and as much as I don't like seeing soldiers die, I believe it's better for America if our military confronts the terrorists than if more buildings explode.

Regardless, though, I think returning to a position of non-intervention makes sense. Then if we feel we must intervene, we simply declare war, win the war, and move on.

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Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Hypocrite Series: Adding Dr. Ron Paul to my Feeds

I have a way of latching onto unelectable candidates. Alan Keyes has been a favorite in the past except for his penchant to legislate morality. After reading some of the Republican debate and catching Dr. Paul's answers, I have to say I'm impressed. I'm not entirely sure I agree whole-heartedly with his foreign policy stance because the hands-off approach has failed us in the past (Hitler), but other than that, I can't find any answer of his to which I would object.

Dr. Ron Paul's Site

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Hypocrite Series: Romney on Health Care

I know it seems like I've been picking on Democrats in this series of articles, but the real reason for that is that the Republicans seem unwilling to say anything of any substance. Well, Romney finally stepped in it in the Republican debate. I didn't watch it on television so I've been catching up to it in clips on the Internet. Here's Romney's answer on Health Care:

Asked about the Massachusetts health care reform he signed into law and helped author, Romney said this:

I love it. It's a fabulous program.

He goes on to say:

But I helped write it and I knew it well, and this is a country that can get all of our people insured with not a government takeover, without Hillary care, without socialized medicine. Instead, get the market to do its job. Let people have health care that they can afford. Get the market to do its job. Let people have the opportunity to choose policies in the private sector.

And to add a little weight to the argument:

We didn't expand government programs. We didn't raise taxes. There was no government takeover. The market can work to solve our health care needs, and that's the great, exciting news.

Just to sum up, Romney said the market can solve our health care needs and that the Massachusetts universal coverage law is great. Okay, let's look a little at reports about that law. From the Washington Post (story link):

The Massachusetts legislature approved a bill Tuesday that would require all residents to purchase health insurance or face legal penalties...

Okay, so we fix health care by turning the uninsured into criminals. Interesting...but let's dig deeper:

Their choices would be expanded to include a range of new and inexpensive policies -- ranging from about $250 per month to nearly free -- from private insurers subsidized by the state.

Did you miss it? Should I post that quote again? I'm pretty sure they just said "private insurers subsidized by the state." Now, what was it that Romney said in the debate? Hmmm...oh, that's right. I just posted it above...something about letting the market decide, not raising taxes, and not letting the government take over.

Mitt Romney, the label Hypocrite I was applying to myself in this series is now yours as well. From here on out, I will refer to Governor Romney as Hypocrite Governor Romney (HGR) until he clarifies this issue (which will never happen).

So HGR, what's wrong with your Massachusetts approach?

  1. You're criminalizing someone paying for health care with their own money. Paying for your own health care without insurance is THE DEFINITION OF LETTING THE MARKET DECIDE.

  2. Insurance is a safety-net, not a free pass. Until we start treating insurance in this country as a safety-net to keep us out of bankruptcy, we'll continue to have problems with health care, car insurance, home owner's insurance, etc. Insurance companies must make a profit. They are businesses, not charities or non-profits. As such, they will either look at each customer individually, customers as groups, or all customers as a whole and make sure income exceeds expenses. If they're paying for your $4 monthly generic prescription at Wal-mart each and every month, that $4 is going to be in your monthly insurance cost one way (direct) or another (tax).

  3. Plans like Hillary-care, as HGR demeans it (I didn't like it either...I just think it's a cheap shot), at least show themselves for what they are...Socialized Medicine. This half-breed, bastardization HGR built will only lead to higher taxes, doctors and hospitals acting as law enforcement, and who knows what other unforseen consequences.

HGR does some impressive double-talk. He can post "Free Market Health Care" as the title of his debate answer on his site all he wants, but his answer speaks for itself.

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Tuesday, May 08, 2007

John Edwards' Blog

Alright, this guy has to get rid of his bloggers. No matter what you think of the guy, posts like this one about prescription drugs just turn the candidate into a joke. It basically goes like this:

1. Prescription Drug Prices Bad
2. John Edwards Good
3. Bush/Cheney/Republicans Crooked
4. Elect John Edwards and fix Prescription Drugs

The poster lays out no plan for fixing the problem and seems to think invoking Bush/Cheney corruption (for which he offers no proof, just conjecture) and John Edwards touchy-feely-goodness will sway voters.

Have I mentioned most of the 2008 presidential candidate blog posts are pointless wastes of time?

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Hypocrite Series: Obama on Fuel Efficiency

In this article, Obama writes:

Fuel Economy Standards: Despite tremendous technological innovation in the auto industry, Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards for cars have been held hostage to ideological battles in Washington for 20 years. Barack Obama introduced a bold new plan, bringing together long-time opponents to gradually increase fuel economy standards while protecting the financial future of domestic automakers. Obama’s plan would establish a target of four percent increase each year - unless the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration proves the increase is technologically unachievable, hurts safety, or is not cost-effective. If the target is met for ten years, Obama’s plan will save 1.3 million barrels of oil per day and 20 billion gallons of gasoline per year.

Why do we continue to legislate situations that capitalism is designed to correct on its own? As I drove by the corner gas station today, I noticed prices hopped up to $3.00/gallon. Because I drive a 12 year old Dodge Truck, that means my gas bill is huge running around $60 for approximately 250 miles of driving. That's about 12 miles/gallon or maybe more informatively expressed as $240/month.

What if I could get 50 miles/gallon with a Honda Civic? If my math is right (and it rarely is), I would reduce my monthly gas bill by $180. So is $180/month enough to pay for a Civic? Depending on how you do it, yes it is.

This has been my line of thinking since a few months prior to Hurricane Katrina. So far, the potential savings have not been enough to offset my need for a truck or the upfront cost of buying a new car, but eventually that will change. My truck will likely be parked unless needed with me driving a more fuel efficient car for routine daily activities.

Do I think Obama's proposal is bad? Not really, but I think there are better ways to use our time if a problem will solve itself.

My larger object to Obama's proposals for fuel efficiency is here:

Help for Manufacturers: U.S. automakers are facing retiree health costs that add $1,500 to the cost of every GM car. They are struggling to afford investments in hybrid technology. Obama would encourage automakers to make fuel-efficient hybrid vehicles by helping the companies shoulder the health care costs of their retirees. Domestic automakers will get health care assistance in exchange for investing 50 percent of the savings into technology to produce more fuel-efficient vehicles. In addition, Obama would provide automakers with generous tax incentives for retooling assembly plants.

When millions of us can't even get health insurance, Obama is going to pay health costs for people who already have some of the best? Aside from that, how can you make the leap of logic that retiree health care costs are what prevent U.S. automakers from investing in fuel-efficient technology? Isn't that a textbook example of a non-sequitur? Using the same logic, couldn't I come to the conclusion that inflated salaries negotiated by labor unions prevent investment in new technology? Shouldn't we deal with health care costs themselves as opposed to playing games that make me want to check Obama's campaign contributions for links back to GM?

Let's let capitalism work both in fuel efficiency standards and health care. Undermining capitalism simply brings us to situations like health care where, quite honestly, I'd almost rather it be fully socialized than sit in this half-assed quagmire it's in now.

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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Hypocrite Series: Clinton on Retirement Security

In the first of a 3 part series of town-hall style question/answer sessions, Senator Clinton says this in response to a question about retirement:

This is a huge issue because pension security, retirement security is something that is really part of the basic bargain that I believe we should have between our government and our people.

What many don't know is that Social Security is a relatively new concept in America. Signed into law in 1935 by Franklin D. Roosevelt, Social Security provides benefits to Americans around 65 years old (it varies depending on year of birth and includes other provisions as well). At the time, Roosevelt was in a fight with the courts over the constitutionality of several components of what is called the "New Deal". To annoy colleges worldwide, I'll quote Wikipedia:

During the 1930s President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was in the midst of promoting the passage of a large number of social welfare programs under the New Deal and the High Court struck down many of those programs (such as the Civilian Conservation Corps and the National Recovery Act) as unconstitutional. After having a significant portion of his enactments struck down by the Supreme Court, Roosevelt proposed legislation that would have expanded the Supreme Court to fifteen members. This would have allowed him to nominate six additional members (under certain conditions) which would be more likely to uphold his enactments with his members in place. Having had its autonomy and independence significantly threatened by FDR's ploy, the Supreme Court's tone seemed to change significantly. The Court allowed many New Deal programs very similar to ones they had previously struck down to go through, including Social Security.

As a side note, can you even imagine living in a time where a President attacked an entire branch of our government? What's more interesting is that in all of my History classes, this little tidbit was left out. Revisionist history? Liberals at work in our schools? Roosevelt was treated as a saint even in the fairly conservative part of the country I live in. You be the judge...but back to the topic at hand...

Anyway, as you'll notice, Roosevelt likely wouldn't have been able to put through a Social Security plan without the threat to the Supreme Court. The rest, as they say, is history. Now, we're saddled with employers dutifully reporting our wages to the government and pulling out FICA taxes before we can even object. Just like Edwards' Form 1 plan, it's another out-of-sight-out-of-mind trick by our government. The self-employed who get nailed with it on quarterly estimates and/or for their yearly income taxes are the only ones who really notice.

The attitude Senator Clinton takes above is a common one, and I can't hold it against her. Nevertheless, I disagree. Retirement issues should be left to personal responsibility, family, Church, and community in that order with emphasis on personal responsibility. In a free country, the government should not rob its citizens on payday and claim it's for their own good.

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