Tuesday, October 30, 2007
There's no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren't enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. --Atlas ShruggedI was over at Posts From Helms Deep participating in a discussion on police checkpoints. I mentioned that I had never been requested to submit to a search of my car, and if I were, I would not voluntarily consent.
A number of people commented that it just wasn't worth the grief that would ensue if you withheld consent. It sucked that our society had come to this point, but reality is reality: If you don't "play nice," you are punished. Submit, or be broken.
The Internet is full of stories of police and government abuses of power. Karen over at The Farting Geisha (love the new name!) had a story about a guy who got snotty with a cop. Actually, he just asked the cop if he had done anything wrong, were any laws being broken, etc. OK, he was a bit snotty, but that's not illegal.
The cop went nuts on him. Veiled and unveiled threats. A taste of the events:
Brett: Did I commit a moving violation?This could easily have been dismissed as the officer's word against the driver. Only this time, it was being recorded. What is most frightening is that the cop knew he was being recorded, and still continued with his abuse.
Officer #1: Yeah you did, when you were coming in here.
Brett: Really? What was that?
Officer #1: Yeah, you wanna try me? You wanna try me tonight? You think you've had a bad night? I will ruin your ****ing night.
[Officer starts to get close up to my face]
Officer #1 You want to try me?
[Officer is inches away from my face, screaming as I'm pinned between him and my vehicle]
Officer #1 Do you wanna try me young boy? Do you want to try me tonight young boy?
Brett: No I don't.
Officer #1: Do you want to go to jail for some ****ing reason I come up with?
Now let me interject at this point that I'm not some cop-hating anarchist bent on the breakdown of our society. Quite the opposite. My dad was a cop, I have a brother who is a cop. I was the best man at a cop wedding, and have been in two other cop weddings. Law-and-order types have always been a big part of my life. I honor good police officers with the same type of respect I hold for folks in the military. They are often shitty jobs that these people have volunteered to do to give us the lives we have. God Bless Them.
Yes, I want a well ordered, free society and that (ironically) requires a police force. What I cannot accept is any government official abusing a citizen under color of authority. If you give a cop any kind of grief - such as not consenting to a search of your car - at a minimum, you will be tied up for hours while they decide if your non-consent is in-and-of-itself suspicious enough to obtain a warrant. Really piss them off, and you're toast.
How difficult would it then be to "punish" the non-consenter by planting a few pot seeds in the trunk, or a used cocaine package between the seat cushions, or damned near anything that indicates illegal activity?
How can you fight that? Most people can't. At best, you will spend many thousands of dollars for lawyers and hope to get a reduced charge or sentence. Imagine what would have happened to the Duke Lacrosse players had their parents not been wealthy enough to hire lawyers and investigators. Most people don't have that option, and simply get ground up by the government.
On top of this abuse of power, we are increasingly legislating away our freedoms. Is it even possible to turn this trend where every aspect of our lives has a law affixed to it? Can't smoke, can't dance, can't carry a gun, can't swear, can't hunt, can't ingest drugs, can't drink a beer walking down the street. There is a law to protect us against anything you can think of.
I thought laws were (generally) in place to prescribe the punishment to be administered after the rights of another had been infringed upon: If you kill, rob, beat or abuse someone, here is your punishment.
Now, we legislate against all of the acts that could potentially result in someone's rights being infringed upon, or against things we personally find offensive.
Mostly, this comes by someone playing the Fear Card, and some government official jumping on the bandwagon and passing a bill.
Think of the progression of events that started with a kid being killed by a drunk driver, to a country that now sets up checkpoints to question people without reasonable cause:
Someone's child is killed by a drunk driver. It's horrible. The guy was a drunk, but kept slipping through the cracks. He's never been punished for his transgressions. The story gets some national attention, and Mother's Against Drunk Drivers (MADD) is launched.So, in the span of twenty seven years, we have gone from a drunk driving death to prohibitionist sets of laws that punish when no harm has yet been done, and created a government that is able to fully bypass one of the key tenants of our society - probable cause - in the name of safety.
They, like the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, play upon the sympathies of the public to get laws passed that don't only punish the individual that commits a crime, but attempt to control behaviors which could potentially lead to bad outcomes.
The amount of alcohol legally allowed to be in your bloodstream while driving is significantly reduced. Simply the act of consuming alcohol and driving your vehicle is now much more likely to get you arrested and convicted, even though the rights of no other person have been violated.
More draconian laws are passed. The State is now allowed to not only stop your car for simply being on a chosen street, they are able to interview you although there is absolutely no indication that you have committed a crime. You simply picked the wrong street to drive upon.
I don't see any indication that this type of government is going to be reversed, or even slowed down. I have never seen a government get smaller or less repressive by choice (the repeal of Prohibition being perhaps the one exception).
What are our options? Smile, and eat the shit sandwich? Not my style.
Move to a more libertarian state? How long before they're "infected" as well? Most of this abuse is perpetrated or sanctioned by the federal government anyways, so it doesn't much matter where you live.
Stand and fight? Such a broad range of options, from grassroots political groups, to civil disobedience, to armed conflict. Most have a low likelihood of being effective, or they won't end well (as in You're Dead).
Leave the country and watch the collapse from afar? Looking more and more like the only viable option, but most countries have their own set of peculiarities with which to deal. Out of the pan and into the fire, so to speak.
I am uncertain on what path to follow. I want to be able to advise my young adult sons on their options as well, but I don't even know what I want to do for me and my wife!
These are indeed some troubling times.
Sunday, October 28, 2007
I'm the kind of person that, if your business screws me or my family, I will make sure that everyone I know is made aware of what you have done. I will do everything that is legally within my means to put your dirty ass out of business.
On the flip side, if you do me right, I will sing your praises, also to everyone I know. I will bend over backwards to help your business thrive.
This past week, I saw the good and the bad sides of the same coin.
I had called my mom on Wednesday just to check in and say Hi. She's 72, and has been by herself the past 19 years since my dad passed away. She's fiercely independent, but sometimes too trusting for her own good.
She starts off our conversation saying how she had just spent a ton of money. She just purchased a new fridge, dishwasher and stove. The old ones were circa 1972. I think she got her money's worth!
Anyway, she continues by saying that there was a problem with the fridge ice maker water connection, and she needed to get a plumber out to do some work.
It was going to cost her $2500.
Huh? Tell me the story, mom.
The guy from the company that sold her the fridge said her connection wasn't up to code, and she needed to get it fixed. She had also clogged her kitchen sink the night before, so she needed to get someone out quickly. She had no idea whom to call, so she opened the Yellow Pages and picked the one with the biggest ad: Ben Franklin (Suck Ass) Plumbing. They even had a discount coupon in the paper, so she figured they must be good.
The guy comes out and sees the fridge water connection, and says she needs a Fridge Water Box. He brings her outside and shows her a pipe that's dripping. He tells her that her old pipes are all eaten up because she used Draino to fix her clogged sink. He tells her he's sure her pipes under the house are all rotted out as well. He'll just crawl under there to confirm it.
He comes out, and sure enough, there's water underneath the house right below the sink drain. Doesn't look good. He'll need to replace the old cast iron pipe, plus there's all kinds of duct work in the way for the fridge water connection, so he'll need to run all new pipe there as well.
He can get this fixed for her right away. Tomorrow, in fact. It'll be $1700 for the new drain work and $800 for the fridge supply line. Because of prior commitments, she wasn't able to have him do the work that quickly, so they scheduled it for the following Monday (thank God!).
The first thing out of my mouth was, "Mom, you're getting screwed. Have you given him any money yet?" I think she realized this, and she starts crying.
I need to tone this down, and control my anger. I am blazingly pissed off. I tell her that if she can wait, I can come out on the weekend (she lives an hour and a half away) and at least do the fridge supply line work myself and save her some money. I can also assess the drain situation for her.
She starts bawling again. She doesn't want to think about it and just wants to put this behind her. I need to get her calmed down.
We chat about some other things for a while, and she settles down a bit. I tell her, "Mom, maybe I can save you a couple of buck with these guys. Why don't you call them tomorrow, and tell them you want a parts and labor breakdown for both jobs? That way, you can track how long it takes them, and maybe save a few dollars on the labor charge." She likes this idea.
I ask her to call them in the morning, and for her to tell them I'll call them in the afternoon so they can fax me a copy. I can then explain to her what's going to happen.
Mom makes her call, and I contact them in the afternoon. The lady is real nice, and says that the plumber, Victor, hasn't yet turned in his paperwork, but she'll be able to fax it to me tomorrow before noon. She takes my cell number, saying she'll call me if there is any delay.
At 4pm the next day, I have no fax, no call. I call them and a different lady answers the phone and tells me that they still don't have the paperwork in from Victor, and that they don't usually do time-and-materials estimates. I tell her that just the day before, I was told that they did. She puts me on hold.
She comes back and yammers on about nothing, and puts me on hold again. She'll get a supervisor.
The supervisor comes on the line and give me the same bull, but offers to have Victor give me a call and walk me through the estimate. Fine. Have him call me.
Ten minutes or so later, Victor calls. We start with the fridge water line. How long will this take you? Four hours or so. How much in materials? He sees the trap closing on him.
"I won't know the exact materials until we're actually doing the job." Really, I say. Well if you don't know the parts you'll need, how could you have given her an estimate?
"All of our work is done on a per-job basis. We look it up in a book, and it tells us what to charge."
Hmm. OK, let's talk about the drain work. He tells me the Draino has rotted all of her pipes and they will all have to be replaced.
How much pipe? Oh 30 or 40 feet worth. And the job will take two guys - one on top, one in the crawl space.
I'm not going to get a decent answer, so I thank him for his time (THAT was tough) and hang up. I call my mom to fill her in.
She answers the phone, and is clearly pissed off. She had been at her weekly Bridge game, and all of her old lady friends were telling her horror stories about Ben Franklin (Suck Ass) Plumbing! It seems she was the only one that didn't know these guys were crappy.
Great. I tell her she should call them up and cancel the job. Then she should do what she should have done in the first place: Call my middle brother, speak with his wife and get her father's phone number. He had been a plumber for 40 years and can give her a trustworthy referral.
My mom called me this morning. Kevin, the referred plumber, came by this morning and did the work (he works for a plumbing company in San Francisco and does side-jobs on weekends).
One hundred and seventy five dollars.
It seems that the only thing wrong with the fridge water line was that there wasn't a shut-off valve at the fridge, so he added one, and hooked up the fridge. The leaking pipe outside? It was her hose bib (I had assumed it was the clean-out). Not even related to the drain. He replaced that.
She asked him to go under the house, because Victor was quite adamant that the cast iron pipes were all rotted out. He crawls under there, and is back in a couple of minutes. Uhm, there aren't any cast iron pipes. It's all ABS. In perfect condition. The ground is bone dry.
She showed him the original estimate, and Kevin just shook his head. He couldn't even understand what Victor was trying to say, much less how anything could have even approached $2500.
She told me that she started crying while Kevin was there. He asked her what was wrong, and she said this had so thoroughly stressed her, and she was so thankful for him being such an honest guy. He asked her to tell her friends.
Kevin will now have at least 40 little old ladies - many with much more than just a couple of bucks to spend - from her various Bridge groups that will have his name and number. Plus her widow's group. And her boccie ball club. (If you live in the SF Bay Area and need a plumber, email me, and I'll send you his full name and number).
Ben Franklin (Suck Ass) Plumbing will be getting a letter from me demanding the return of my mom's $235 that she was charged to unclog her drain. I'll be copying the franchiser and the local Better Business Bureau, as well. My wife wants me to contact the county DA and at least file an Elder Abuse report. We'll see. A lot will depend upon how they respond to my demand letter.
I'll be calling Kevin tomorrow to thank him for what he did. I'll let him know that, should he ever want to go into business for himself on a full-time basis, he will simply need to call me, and my bank will be happy to make him a business loan.
We love honest, ethical businesses. We don't usually do start-up loans, unless there is a compelling story.
Kevin's got one.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
I'm sure everyone has seen or read about the massive fires that are ablaze in Southern California. When I hear about the number of acres burned, it doesn't really mean that much to me. I know it's a big area, but so what?
What has amazed me is the number of people that have been evacuated. One million. So far.
That is up from 350,000 just yesterday. These are just staggering numbers.
The radio guys jawing on the way in to work were talking about how amazed they are that this many people could be herded around and there only be a couple of deaths. When compared to Katrina, there was some on-the-fringe discussion that it was some sort of racial thing.
I don't buy that. The whole Southern California region has way more blacks and Hispanics than whites. Race, in this instance, is not an issue in my eyes.
I think the biggest difference is the local governments. The SoCal folks were, for the most part, ready for this. They spent their federal disaster dollar on preparedness (as opposed to hookers and payoffs in New Orleans).
It seems like the biggest thing was the reverse 911 system. When an area was about to get slammed by the fire, the system called homes in the path of destruction, and instructed them to get the hell out of Dodge.
That's how this whole disaster business should work. We elect local officials (and state officials as well) to look out for our best interest, locally. If they don't, we fire them.
When the feds get involved, bureaucracy takes hold, people die and dollars are wasted. And if you think about it (which no one seems to do), the feds are not authorized to have a federal disaster agency. Since it's not specifically authorized by the Constitution, the Tenth amendment should come into play, which says it is a state right/responsibility.
No, we're too brainwashed into thinking the feds should come riding into our lives on a white stallion whenever anything goes wrong.
So much of our daily lives would be so much better if we simply followed the principals of the Constitution. Small federal government, limited federal bureaucracy, strong state and local control.
Monday, October 22, 2007
I think I've mentioned here that I'm a Raider's season ticket holder. We have 4 of us that buy 6 tickets. This way, we all get at least one ticket to each game, plus we do a round-robin for the other two tickets. Once all of the tickets are chosen, we then horse-trade to get multiple tickets to games we really want to see.
For instance, for yesterday's game, I had 4 of the 6 tickets. I brought one of my brothers (the other one is in our season ticket holder group), one of my sons and a guy who's been one of my closest friends since the 8th grade. I've traded away my ticket for the Houston game, etc.
We do our tailgaters right. This first picture shows our main encampment. We have two tents: One for the cooking and one for the relaxing. The tent on the right has all of our chairs, and the rear of my brother's truck. Inside, you can see a flat screen TV upon which we watch the early game.
Over at the other tent, brother T is cooking up our breakfast. It's always the same: a killer omelet and hash browns. 'Round about this time, the local vagrants (remember, this IS Oakland) start to show up looking for handouts and cash. We damned near had to Tazer my friend L: Every damned bum that came by got a sympathetic ear and a little cash. We quickly broke him of that error in judgment.....
In this second picture, you see brother T cooking, brother J with his back to us, my oldest son TJ (get it?) to his left, and Tazered friend L in the middle.
You'll also notice the tapper on the trunk of my car on the left side of the picture. I have been brewing my own beer for over 27 years. Bud, Coors, Miller or any of the like that are brought to my home quickly meet the bottom of my trash bin. The shiny stainless steel tubes you see are old soda syrup containers that have been cleaned and refurbished. They work perfectly as 5-gallon kegs! As you can see, I brought two of them to the game: A Bohemian Pilsner on the left, and a British Porter on the right.
A recent upgrade to our set-up has been our own pisser. It's a camping "enclosure" of some sort that we outfitted with a 5-gallon bucket and kitty litter. And of course, we have our own Raiderette. My brother has actually given her a name (which I can't remember).
By the time we walked in to the stadium (we do our tailgating in a parking lot on the far side of the coliseum complex instead of fighting for a space in the regular parking lot), we had a dozen folks at our little gig, stuffing our faces with fajitas, hot dogs, Italian sausages, hot wings and chips, all washed down with homebrew.
My Raiders sucked badly and lost to the hapless Chiefs. Still, I got to spend the day with my two brothers, one of my sons and my good buddy.
Not a bad way to spend the day!
Labels: Life and Times
Friday, October 19, 2007
Nearly 2 years ago, I wrote about the problems San Francisco schools were having.
People were fleeing the capital of The People's Republic of California in droves. It's costing their school district $70 million a year. In a small "big city" like SF (only 750,000 or so people) that is significant.
It seems as though their Sister Socialist City to the South, LA, is having similar problems.
The number of students enrolled in Los Angeles public schools has dropped again for the fifth consecutive year in a trend that has affected school districts throughout Southern California, education officials reported Thursday.20,000 kids this year. Over 50,000 in the past 5 years. That's real money.
Driven largely by lower birthrates and a real estate market that has priced out many families, the decline in enrollment means heavy cuts in funding for public schools, officials say.
Compared with last year, 20,285 fewer students now fill Los Angeles Unified School District classrooms. With the total number of students pegged at 653,215, it is second only to New York City in national enrollment, yet stands far below where it was only a few years ago when its student body topped 700,000.
The article says this drop from last year will cost LA around $100 million. Yeah, right. California pays an average of $10,000 per head, per year. That's a $200 MILLION drop, just from last year, and $500 MILLION per year difference since 2001. Half a billion dollars a year.
So where are all of these kids going?
Many families are fleeing the cities for a more rural environment. In the North, former San Franciscans are fleeing to the Sacramento valley or out of state. In LA, it's to the Inland Empire.
And this excuse of "lower birthrates" is utter, unadulterated bullshit. California as a whole, and LA specifically has a huge net influx of residents. Some legal, most not. That doesn't matter for the schools, though, because school money comes from Sacramento and is based upon head count, not citizenship. No, people in LA are voting with their feet, just as they did in San Francisco: This place is not a place to raise children, and we're leaving.
But the "leaders" in LA won't "get it" any quicker than their socialist brethren in San Francisco. The city will continue to deteriorate, more and more businesses will continue their flight from the city proper, and the tax base will be insufficient to support their socialist dream.
Our state-wide leaders should pay heed to this as well. We have become tired of this crap, and we're going to leave the state with our pension money in our pockets.
Seriously, of all of my friends, only a dozen or so are planning to stay in California once they retire (we're part of the coming "boomer" generation that just took its first sip at the SSI teat this month). California is just too expensive. Too repressive. Too socialistic. Not a good combination.
My wife - a teacher - IM'd me today, saying she wanted to leave. Now. To Australia.
Damn. And I thought I was the one freaking out.....!
We are getting our passports in order, and will be traveling this summer - I think to Costa Rica - to start scouting out other countries that may suit us should we choose to become "ex-pats". My guess is that by the time I want to retire in 11 years, the US will be part of the North American Union (courtesy of Security and Prosperity Partnership Of North America), so one of my options - the Guadalajara area in Mexico - is out.
We'll see how things shake out over the next few years. I plan for the worst, hope for the best.
And it looks like I've now got to be the optimist in the family as well!
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
I have a lot of "discussions" with friends and family on public, government-run cameras. I'm very much against them. The discussion always falls to the, "If you don't have anything to hide, you should not have a problem with them." To which I retort, "America is founded upon 'Innocent until proven guilty'. If I'm innocent, why do THEY need to watch me?"
They'll say, "You don't have an expectation of privacy while you're in public". I'll say, "OK then, let's set up a camera on a public light post that is aimed at your bedroom, kitchen, family room, etc., and post it on the Internet. If you're not doing anything wrong, you shouldn't have a problem with it".
You see, I believe we do have an expectation of privacy from our government unless there is just cause otherwise. It's pretty well spelled out in the fourth amendment:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.Isn't that pretty clear? Your body or your possessions cannot be searched unless the government has probable cause. Isn't continuous monitoring a "search"? I think it is.
Yet we fairly beg Nanny to put a camera on every street corner to "keep us safe".
Most people have heard that the UK has thousands of cameras. Ten thousand in London alone. It has cost them 200 million British Pounds over the past 10 years for this system.
Yet the cameras provide no additional benefit in solving crimes.
A comparison of the number of cameras in each London borough with the proportion of crimes solved there found that police are no more likely to catch offenders in areas with hundreds of cameras than in those with hardly any.Still, I guarantee you the program won't be scrapped in the UK, or stalled in places like NYC, Detroit and other American cities looking to blanket their city with cameras.
How many extra cops could have been on the street for an average of 20 million Pounds a year? Lots, I'd guess.
Why have we become such Sheeple? So easily spooked and led by the nose?
Where's our pride? Where's our national spine?
We go bat-shit crazy over trans-fats and smoking in restaurants, yet roll over like puppies when the government tells us they're going to film our every step.
Somethin' is wrong with this picture...
Monday, October 15, 2007
This weekend, with much fanfare, Commissar Arnold Schwarzenegger signed AB 1471 into law. It mandates that, starting in 2010, all semi-auto handguns must imprint an identifying mark on the spent cartridge that is unique to the specific weapon. Otherwise, they are to be considered an, "unsafe handgun".
Yeah, that's right: A handgun will now be considered unsafe because it cannot imprint on a cartridge. Will that mean that all pre-legislation semi-autos are unsafe and must be surrendered? or taken? What about revolvers? They must be unsafe as well.
Considering that the only difference between an assault rifle and a "regular" rifle is a pistol-grip, I guess I shouldn't be surprised.
I wrote to both of my state representatives. One voted for the law, one against it. I didn't get around to write the Commissar. Here goes:
Dear Commissar Schwarzenegger:I don't expect a response.
I am so disappointed you have turned out to be such a coward in the face of the gun-grabbers. AB 1471 was nothing more than "feel good" legislation. It will do next to nothing in helping to solve crimes (ask your own DOJ for stats on what percentage of crimes are committed with stolen guns - which would make micro-stamping useless) but it will make it much more difficult for poor, law-abiding citizens to afford a self-defense weapon.
You are such a traitor to conservativism. You embrace the Nanny State and shun self-sufficiency. You genuflect to the socialists merely to keep your job. The ends justify the means, right? Scratch your thin veneer, and it's all pink underneath.
Go back to Hollywood. Perhaps you could star in a movie about Benedict Arnold. You have the name and the experience.
Friday, October 12, 2007
The Wall Street Journal had an article in today's online version titled, Income-Inequality Gap Widens. It makes me shake my head when I read stories like this with the sensational headlines.
The wealthiest 1% of Americans earned 21.2% of all income in 2005, according to new data from the Internal Revenue Service. That is up sharply from 19% in 2004, and surpasses the previous high of 20.8% set in 2000, at the peak of the previous bull market in stocks.Let's do the math: The very rich and the very poor make up 51% of Americans, and earn 34% of all income. That means the remaining 49% of Americans that make up the middle class, earn 66% of all income. Is that not a GREAT thing? That a group comprising about half of the country earns 2/3 of the income. Isn't that the idea of America?
The bottom 50% earned 12.8% of all income, down from 13.4% in 2004 and a bit less than their 13% share in 2000.
Buried in the story was this little nugget:
Scholars attribute rising inequality to several factors, including technological change that favors those with more skills, and globalization and advances in communications that enlarge the rewards available to "superstar" performers whether in business, sports or entertainment.Translation: If you develop and build your skills, you will make more money. What a concept!
How do you do that? You stay in school or you actually work [key word: work] to develop those skills. How shocking that it actually requires efforts to make money. Amazing, huh?
Ya mean that by encouraging our poor to continue to take hand-outs from Nanny and becoming dependent upon the State for their entire existence is not the path to wealth? Whoa. Stop the train. My head is spinning over that revelation.
I think what pisses me off the most about the article is this notion of "inequality". It presupposes that everyone should have equal incomes. America is built on the premise of equality of opportunity, not outcome.
What I'd like to see reported is the "inequality" in education and experience between the rich and the poor. I'd bet a large amount of money that the poor are largely uneducated and unmotivated. Both of these are personal choices.
You are given, totally free of charge, a high school education. You can get professional certifications for a few hundred dollars. You can get an Associate of Arts degree for less than $2,000. Upgrading to a BS/BA will be a few thousand dollars more. If you're dirt-poor or a minority, you can get all of the above for FREE or close to it.
Motivation is the key. You have to want to educate yourself. You have to want to work. You have to want to succeed.
But many poor choose not to raise themselves out of the muck. Our bleeding-heart, liberal society thinks the best way to help someone is to coddle them, wipe their ass, and fill their bellies.
In reality, it makes them not a citizen, but a subject. They are dependent upon the whims of their keepers.
That can't end well.
Jesse and Al will hit all of the cable shows, bemoaning the plight of the poor, inner-city blacks. Hillary and her ilk will use this to advance their Universal Health Care agenda to, "protect the children". Knocked-up trailer trash breeding sows will be paraded across our TV screens as a reason to tax the evil rich. They'll all get their lucre, the poor will remain poor, and the "Income Inequality" gap will widen.
And America will die just a little bit more.
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
When will the gun-grabbers ever learn? Calling it a, 'gun free zone' doesn't make it so.
It just makes it a low-risk/high-value target to the shooter...
On Thursday of last week, I had some documents I had to mail to my mother. Seeing that I rarely mail anything - I use online bill-pay for all of my bills - I had to make a trip to the post office to have postage affixed to my envelope.
When I entered the lobby, there were 2 people in front of me, and two tellers (or whatever they call the front-desk postal "workers"). Thirty minutes later, I had the postage on my envelope and it was on its merry way to mom.
I was listening to the chit-chat that was going on between the tellers and the customers. That's all it was - chit-chat. Not, "How many stamps do you need?", or "Do you want to send it registered?", or anything like that. Just idle chatter.
I figured I had simply picked a bad day to have received such lousy service.
Over this past weekend, we had a party, and one of the folks that attended had left their cell phone. I told them I'd mail it my first day back at work, which was yesterday (we had Monday off for the Columbus Day holiday). I went to the same post office. There were the same two tellers behind the glass, plus a supervisor at some special window off to the side.
There must have been 25 people standing in line, and it wasn't moving. Some lady got out of line and walked over to the supervisor to tell her that one of the tellers was talking on the phone, and had been doing so for the past 10 minutes. She had moved up one space in that time. She asked the supervisor to either get the teller off the phone or add another teller.
The supervisor looked at her, said she'd fix it right away, then put her head down, dealing with whatever problem she was working on. She did nothing. I grabbed a postal shipping box and left.
Today, I was just going to "pop in" and mail my package during my lunch hour. Things looked good: Two different tellers, 2 people in front of me - this would be easy.
Twenty minutes later, I was out of there. My blood pressure must have been 40 points higher. If you say something, your package gets "lost". They have you by the short hairs.
Any time someone tells you they want government-run Universal Health Care, tell them to spend a day in the post office. Or the DMV. Or any other government-run monopoly.
Tell them that this is the kind of caring, attentive service they can expect after Hillary's plan goes into effect. Tell them that no amount of swearing, yelling or threats to, "take your business elsewhere" will affect the situation. Other than to make it worse.
Tell them that if they vote for any iteration of government-controlled health care, they need to have their head looked at. They had better make their appointment now, 'cause the line is gonna be a long one...
Thursday, October 04, 2007
"A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largess from the public treasury. From that time on the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury, with the results that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world's great civilizations has been 200 years. These nations have progressed through this sequence: from bondage to spiritual faith; from spiritual faith to great courage; from courage to liberty; from liberty to abundance; from abundance to selfishness; from selfishness to complacency; from complacency to apathy; from apathy to dependency; from dependency back to bondage."So where do you think America falls on this continuum? I'd say we're in the "apathy to dependency" stage. People are begging Nanny to wipe their ass. Most people just don't care.
Alexander Fraser Tytler (1742-1813)
It's too hard to keep up on everything.
I have too much to do at work to pay attention to politics.
I don't want to have to think when I get home.
It's disgusting. We're going to deserve what we get.
Everyone has heard about what's happening with the sub-prime mortgage crisis. Foreclosures are going through the roof, people are losing their homes, blah, blah, blah. In the press, banks are taking the brunt of the blame for what is happening, but there's plenty of blame to go around.
Here's what happened:
Since late 2001, home prices have been climbing like crazy. People were buying and selling, banks were making loans, and everyone was making money.
In 2005, the market peaked. Of course, no one knew this at the time. Sales slowed a bit, but banks still needed to meet their profit numbers, and potential buyers still wanted to get their brass ring and make big bucks on a home.
To meet their profit numbers, banks began lowering their credit underwriting standards. Instead of 20% down, it went to 10%. Then 5%. Then No Money Down.
People couldn't meet the income qualifications so banks began offering Stated Income loans - your income was not verified via bank statements or check stubs. Whatever you said you earned, the banks took as fact. You could also get in with Teaser Rates. If regular rates were 6%, you'd get in at 2%. The rate would be low for a year or two, then bump up to the regular rate..... and payment.
Now, teaser rates have been around forever. Normally, when the loan is being underwritten, the banks use the regular rate to ensure you can make the payment when the teaser rate expires. This time around, the loans were underwritten using the teaser rate.
Everyone was betting that home prices would continue to rise. The borrowers were betting that, when the teaser rate expired, they could refinance at a better rate because the home would have appreciated enough for them to qualify for lower rates. Banks were also betting homes would continue to appreciate. Even if the borrower defaulted, they would still come out whole in a foreclosure sale.
Greed and stupidity on the part of the buyers and bankers got us in this mess.
So what do we do? This is America. We need to legislate against stupidity!
Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Congressman Barney Frank, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, and Senators Chris Dodd, and Charles Schumer released the following letter to President Bush today, urging him to take the steps needed to counter the subprime mortgage crisisAnd what better way to get legislation passed than to throw in the race-card?
“We believe this situation demands a serious response commensurate with the magnitude of the threats to individual homeowners, communities and the nation’s economy,” they wrote.
These lenders and brokers adopted what Secretary Paulson acknowledged were “bad lending practices” and disproportionately made high-cost subprime loans to African-American and Latino families.No, these loans were made to anyone that could steam up a mirror.
If that doesn't work, you can always bring up a natural disaster.
National Consumer Law Center notes that if these foreclosures go unchecked, the coming crisis could eclipse the number of people displaced by Hurricane Katrina.I'm shocked they missed the opportunity to throw in, "It's for the children!!" Someone in Pelosi's press office needs a good talking to for missing that one.
They did ask for a Loan Czar. Really.
What kind of legislation or "response" do we need? Let's look what has happened here:
The borrowers got into a home for little or no money. They got mortgages that were costing them less per month than what a rental payment would be for a similar home. The reaper came a-callin' and they couldn't make the payments, so they have to move. What have they lost? Other than a ding on their credit, which can be all but removed within 3 years, they've been inconvenienced, but lost nothing.
The lenders (and Wall Street, who bought investments secured by these mortgages) are the ones taking it in the financial shorts. The buyers of the Mortgage-Backed Securities (MBS's) are the biggest losers, as most big banks sell their loans to be securitized. In general, smaller banks did not do these kinds of loans, because they're kept on the books of the bank.
Why is no one whining about the plight of the poor MBS buyers? HAVE YOU NO HEART, AMERICA?
Oh, yeah. It's because they're just a bunch of rich white guys or evil corporations with a boot to the neck of the common guy.
Geez. Cry me a river...
Wednesday, October 03, 2007
Posturing. The great American pastime. Athletes do it. Business professionals do it. Teenagers do it.
And paid public officials do it.
San Francisco, the provincial capital of the People's Republic of California, has been trying to get a non-binding resolution passed against talk show host Michael Savage.
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors today condemned nationally syndicated radio talk-show host Michael Savage, whose program originates in city by the bay, for "hate speech."Clearly, the stupidvisors, uhm, supervisors in San Francisco have too much time on their hands. Forget about budget problems, family and business flight from the city, homeless encampments and city-supplied hypodermic needles littering the parks. They need to be spending time and money fighting about whether Savage gets to exercise his freedom of speech.
It was the board's second attempt at a resolution to condemn Savage for his criticism of illegal aliens in the U.S.
Because of this idiocy, people of all races are bailing out from the City By The Bay in droves.
But this idiocy is not limited to our cities. No, no, no. Our national "leaders" are baring their asses as well. Radio host Rush Limbaugh made some comment about soldiers that the Democrats are running with.
In the House, Rep. Mark Udall, D-Colo., who is running for the open Senate seat in his state, has authored a resolution condemning the host. Democratic Majority Leader Steny Hoyer has not decided whether or not he'll bring it up for a vote, his staff told FOX News.The Republicans are just as willing to piss our tax dollars away when they are given the chance to grandstand.
... and GOP efforts last week to condemn ads by MoveOn.org that suggested Gen. David Petraeus, head of Multinational Forces in Iraq, had betrayed the United States by giving Congress a semi-positive report on the result of the troop surge there.
It's comments like this that make me proud to be an American:
"What's good for the goose is good for the gander," Hoyer said, adding that everyone should try to show "restraint from condemning all that we disagree with."Well neener, neener, neener.
I don't care if you agree or disagree with Limbaugh, Savage or any of the politicians involved. That's not the point. The point is our public officials are so busy posturing and passing non-binding resolutions that nothing is getting done. This joint is falling apart.
So what are you gonna do? Two groups with very different political viewpoints are joining forces.
They want to secede from the union.
In an unlikely marriage of desire to secede from the United States, two advocacy groups from opposite political traditions — New England and the South — are sitting down to talk.Because of the over-reaching control of the federal government, Americans are frustrated. Our Constitution was specifically written to limit the feds. There are 37 specific powers granted to the three branches of our federal government. In general, they concern commerce, common defense, international relations, and the laws and their interpretation. That's it.
Tired of foreign wars and what they consider right-wing courts, the Middlebury Institute wants liberal states like Vermont to be able to secede peacefully.
That sounds just fine to the League of the South, a conservative group that refuses to give up on Southern independence.
To make sure there was no confusion about this, we have the tenth amendment:
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.So why do we have a Department of Health and Human Services? A Department of Education? The EPA? Social Security Administration? Hello?!?
Rights specifically acknowledged or granted are routinely trampled. Search and seizure. Probable cause. Right to arms. Eminent domain abuses. All crapped upon.
It has spun out of control, and there is no indication that the Constitution will be followed in the future.
People want out.
Open talk of secession. The Ex-patriot movement.
It's a message. Our supposed leaders had better pay attention or they may be the only ones left.
Monday, October 01, 2007
Update: Spineless judge postponed this for 10 days.
Firms Brace for Crackdown on Illegal Labor
By MIRIAM JORDAN
October 1, 2007; Page A3
As a crucial hearing looms on a planned government crackdown on illegal immigrants in the workplace, many businesses are scrambling to figure out how they will cope with an expected loss of illegal labor. A U.S. district court in San Francisco could decide as early as today whether the Social Security Administration can send out thousands of "no match" letters to employers whose workers' names don't jibe with their Social Security numbers. The notices would be accompanied by letters from the Department of Homeland Security outlining new penalties for hiring undocumented workers.
The program, if put into effect, is expected to pose tough choices for many business owners, particularly in industries such as agriculture, construction and food service, which rely heavily on illegal workers. Employers would be required to fire such workers once their status was exposed, or risk fines.
The Bush administration prepared the crackdown after Congress failed to pass an immigration bill that would have legalized the nation's estimated 12 million illegal immigrants. At least eight million illegal laborers are believed to work in U.S. jobs.
The work-site program was supposed to roll out in September with the mailing of 140,000 no-match letters to employers. But the AFL-CIO filed a lawsuit alleging the new policy could lead to discrimination against or firing of native-born U.S. workers and legal immigrant workers. The program was delayed when a federal judge in August blocked the new policy until questions about its legality had been addressed. The hearing that opens today is aimed at clarifying this.
The new program puts employers on notice that they can no longer look the other way regarding illegal workers. If an employer receives a no-match letter on a particular worker, the company has 90 days to certify that worker's legal status; otherwise, the worker's employment must be terminated. Companies that violate the policy would face what Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff has called "stiff penalties or sanctions" higher than the fines of up to $2,200 a worker in place today.
Already, many companies are bracing for a hit -- particularly small businesses that say their survival could be at stake. Those businesses say the new enforcement places a disproportionate burden on them, subjecting them to costly and time-consuming record keeping by reducing productivity even if only a handful of workers are affected. Some businesses in industries such as agriculture and construction are talking about shutting down or moving their operations abroad.
"The typical small company is not equipped to be the nation's immigration police," says Todd McCracken, president of the National Small Business Association, which represents about 65,000 small companies. "A small-business owner can't just give no-match letters to human resources to sort out."
In early September, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and several trade groups representing small businesses that employ low-skilled immigrants joined the lawsuit. Among others, the United Fresh Produce Association, the National Roofing Contractors Association and the Association of Nursery and Landscapers allege the Department of Homeland Security failed to perform a financial-impact assessment, as required under the Regulatory Flexibility Act, to measure the impact of the new rule on small businesses.
"This is a hollow argument coming from businesses who want to avoid liability for employing unauthorized workers," said a Department of Homeland Security spokesman. "The rule does not impose an expense for employers."
In the $1.2 trillion construction industry, at least one-third of the work force is undocumented, according to an estimate by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Industry experts believe the actual figure is much higher: Last year alone, nearly half of new construction workers were Hispanics who had arrived in the U.S. since 2000.
The impending crackdown generates everything "from concern to utter panic among roofing contractors," says Craig Silvertooth, director of federal affairs for the National Roofing Association, based in Chicago, representing 4,300 businesses. "There is no way to run your business if this goes forward."
In agriculture, about 70% of all workers are illegal immigrants, according to independent estimates, and an existing guest-worker program supplies less than 2% of the work force required each year.
Most illegal immigrants work for bona fide businesses and are hired and paid like other workers on the payroll. To get work, the immigrants normally obtain a fake Social Security card with a made-up nine-digit number. The fake cards are peddled in immigrant neighborhoods.
When the illegal immigrants are hired, their employers don't know whether the documents are authentic. A company thus hires workers, puts them on the payroll and withholds necessary taxes. The unauthorized workers, who receive a paycheck regularly, pay into Social Security but can't draw benefits.
Social Security has been mailing no-match letters for decades, but employers haven't been held accountable for workers who failed to address discrepancies. In fact, employers have been advised not to take any adverse action against an employee based exclusively on the letter. "There has been no definitive legal obligation to take action," says Angelo Paparelli, an immigration lawyer with offices in New York and Irvine, Calif., who is advising several concerned businesses.
"Employers have to be held accountable if they are given clear notice of the fact that they may be hiring illegal aliens," Mr. Chertoff said in announcing the new crackdown. Mr. Chertoff added that about 4% of the 250 million wage reports received by Social Security each year show no matches.
Maureen Torrey, former chairwoman of United Fresh Produce and a farmer in upstate New York, says she provides W-2 forms for all her employees and withholds taxes on their earnings. She has received no-match letters in the past: 375 of her 400 workers are Hispanics, and she figures some are in the U.S. illegally.
The new rule is pushing many farmers to consider extreme options. "You've got to comply," says Mrs. Torrey, who runs Torrey Farms in Elba, N.Y. "We move our farm operations to another country or just sell out." Some U.S. farmers have already been investing or subcontracting in other countries such as Mexico.
The owner of a small California manufacturer that has 120 employees and subcontracts for the U.S. government foresees having to fire about 15% of her work force. "Because of the role they play and the tight labor market, it is probable that we would go out of business," said the woman, who spoke on condition that neither her name nor that of her company be cited.
Some observers hope the legal challenge to the administration's latest enforcement efforts will revive congressional action on immigration. In the meantime, the policy could drive more immigrants to seek jobs in the off-the-books economy, where they have fewer legal protections from employment abuses.