Saturday, August 30, 2008

Thank TABOR!

Colorado's Taxpayer's Bill of Rights (TABOR) has been much maligned, mainly by government officials and employees, for restricting their ability to raise revenues and mandating cuts in economically challenging times. However, when you compare the situation in Colorado to other states, our fiscal position is much stronger due to these restraints.

New York State is currently running a deficit between 5 and 6 billion dollars. The legislature has thus far agreed to cuts that amount to about $427 million. Hardly a solution. California's situation is far worse. Their deficit is at about $15 billion and there currently is no plan to fix it. Colorado's budget is in balance. While many people are unhappy about the cuts necessary to keep it that way, if our government had been spending like drunken sailors over the past 17 years, a balanced budget would be a fairy tale right about now, as it is on both coasts.

TABOR forces government to set priorities and make difficult decisions on an annual basis. They cannot promise the world and leave it to future generations to work out how to pay for it all. The welfare of a constituency is not directly proportional to its governments ability to raise and spend revenue. Find another way to get votes.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Sarah Palin, McCain's VP Pick

Barak and the Democrats put on a pretty good show in Denver. Although I disagreed with the general assessment of Hillary's speech (I thought it was pretty ordinary), Bill and Joe Biden did very well and Obama himself did a good job. His speech hit some points that weren't exactly on par with his previous campaign. He talked about eliminating government programs and personal accountability and responsibility. That was new and directed at mainstream America. He came out of the convention with a 6 point lead in the polls. McCain would have to make some news to get back in the race.

Make some news he has. He didn't play it safe and pick a Romney or a Huckabee for his VP. He went all the way to Alaska and selected 44 year-old, mother of 5, Sarah Palin. just 48 hours or so earlier, many Hillary supporters had capitulated and accepted Obama as their candidate. Suddenly, they're back in play. Palin, of course, will not appeal to those for whom liberalism trumps gender, but many in the Clinton camp are more concerned with breaking that "glass ceiling" than with universal health care. The pick will also stir up a demographic that has been largely inactive to this point: Republican women. There are activists and politicians at the national level, but at the grass roots level, Republican females have been kind of a "women's auxillary". Now they have a player in the game.

It's an interesting system we have. McCain and Biden come from the dynamic of those who spend decades working on their political careers, who may someday get a shot at the big prize. Obama and Palin represent an infusion of new genes in the political pool. Nobody would have bet on Obama for a presidential nominee 5 years ago and Palin was nationally unknown until very recently. Suddenly, if McCain were to win the presidency, she could very well become the Republican heir apparent. Both campaigns are a mix of fresh faces and the old guard.

It is refreshing to know that, no matter who wins the next election, the winning streak of "two old white guys" has finally come to an end.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Blankets over Greenland - Dumbest Idea Ever d-guide1.html

the technology was developed to preserve ski hills. That makes sense to me. Perserving the ice on Greenland...not so much. I know, I know, we're all going to die if the fertile soil under the ice of Greenland is actually exposed and useable again, but it's okay. I've had a good run.

A better and easier idea might be to deal with the fact that the ice on Greenland is melting. Maybe come up with a life plan that doesn't depend on Greenland remaining covered with ice. Besides, in reflecting the sunlight, and thereby the heat, from the surface of Greenland, you're just redirecting it back to the atmosphere, where it will travel to some other part of the world and "global warm" somebody else. Isn't that a politically correct no no?

Obama Biden Ticket

Barak Obama's campaign did a great job of building up hype for the VP pick. Between the text message thing and making the world wait until Saturday morning, he had pundits everywhere on the edge of their seats.

The actual announcement was a bit anti-climactic. If you were looking forward to some bold new agent of change, I don't think Joe Biden was what you had in mind. It's a "do no harm" pick, that is, if he can hold his tongue for a couple of months.

From McCain's standpoint, Biden kind of neutralizes the whole cranky old man thing. McCain can get ornery sometimes, but Biden is just plain mean toward folks that don't see things his way, especially the "little people".

It is an interesting development that the biggest headliners at the convention, other than Barak, will be Hillary, Bill and now Joe, all three of whom have said that Obama is not qualified to be president, one of whom even called it a fairy tale. Now all three are eager guests in his church. Add that to the fact that Jesse Jackson actually had to apologize to Barak for a racial slur and you can see how the tables have turned on the established leadership. However, it's not really a "throw the bums out" dynamic. The old guard isn't going anywhere. They just have a new leader.

Monday, August 18, 2008

BBB Alert - Relentless Car Warranty Calls

The phone rings, the automated voice on the other end reminds you that your auto warranty is about to expire. Both consumers and local businesses have been inundated with these auto warranty calls. The companies are using automated dialing programs that call every single number (including cell phones and unlisted numbers). It doesn’t matter if you own a vehicle or not.

The messages give information that you can be removed from their calling list by pressing a number. However, the calls continue to come. Consumers have reported waiting for a human representative and asking to be removed from the list, only to receive more warranty calls. At least 4 or 5 different firms are calling with these warranty offers.

Some company representatives have become combative and rude when asked to put a telephone number on their “do not call” list. They often refuse to give any information about the firm they are working for as well. Other consumers who have reached a representative are barraged with questions about VIN numbers, Social Security numbers, birthdates, and other sensitive information before the agent will tell the consumer anything.

The BBB of Southern Colorado office was plagued by auto warranty calls as well, receiving upwards of 20 calls a day.

The BBB reminds consumers that you do not have to give out information to unsolicited callers. A legitimate company will give you full information, including a telephone number, address, and why they are calling.

Persons besieged by these warranty or other unwanted telemarketing calls are encouraged to register with the Colorado No Call List and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) National Do Not Call Registry.

Consumers may not be aware that they can add or remove their residential, wireless, or fax telephone numbers.

If a company continues to call you after being asked to remove you from their calling list, you can file a complaint with the No Call agencies.

Colorado No Call List 800-309-7041

FTC National No Call Registry 888-382-1222

Friday, August 15, 2008

The True Face of the Enemy is Revealed

It's not the communists, the Muslims, not even the radical ones. It's not even the "secular progressives". Communists, extremist Muslims, Born Again Christians and progressives can all live peacefully in the same apartment building in most any city in the U.S. . The real battle is, and always has been, the rule of force vs. the rule of law.

The motley crew described above could co-habitate in downtown Chicago because in the eyes of the court, they are equal. No one can initiate the use of force on another with impunity.

The re-emergence of Soviet-style Russia illustrates the face of the rule of Force. Putin is no longer President, but he's still The Man. He still controls the goons. The Politiboro has given him and Russian defense and intelligence agencies the license to kill. That is, they are authorized to kill anyone who is deemed a threat to the country (like nosey reporters, people investigating the death of said reporters and unworthy political candidates). Russia has not only overrun Georgia in a very well planned out "rope a dope", but has actually threatened Poland with a nuclear strike.

The Russians are certainly not extremist Jihadists, but the underlying principal is the same. Instill fear. Rule by force. I've always thought the leaders of the Jihad are more gangster than religion. In Russia, gangsters also rule. The economy is largely controlled by an organized crime organization known as the Russian Business Network.

Rule by force cannot coexist with rule of law. Rule by force requires that there be those who are above the law, who are the law. The time is coming when the world will have to choose one or the other. Most of the world will choose not to choose, giving the upper hand to Rule of Force by default. Fortunately, history has shown it's not always just a numbers game.

The question at hand is, do we accomodate the Russian's desire for more territory and more control in the name of some semblance of order and non-confrontation, or do we call them out? I'm not saying launch the missiles...yet. I mean actions like those taken by Poland, announcing that they will house a missile defense shield, forcing the Russians to put their intentions on display. Maybe demanding that Russia be booted from the G8 or we leave the G8. We should take deliberate actions with no pretense that this is all some kind of misunderstanding, but that we fully recognize the game they're playing and we will not allow it.

We need to make clear to the citizens of Russia who have put Putin and company on a pedestal and turned them into rock stars, exactly what the stakes are here.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Bad Guys Still Don't Get It

Iran's feeling froggy. Russia is flexing its military muscles again. It seems as though Putin and Pals are taking advantage of economic sluggishness in the West, as well as relative disunity, combined with windfall profits from good 'ole black gold.

Evidently, they believe that their failure to dominate the world in the past was due to insufficient military might or funding. Now they've got some money, built and bought some new toys and are chomping at the bit to make a new play for top dog.

The end result may take a while to play out, but it will be the same. A "smack-down" of epic proportions. Neither Russia nor Iran has the economic capacity to keep pace with the West in the long run. They are one-trick ponies. Oil will only take them so far for so long. Free markets and free people are not negotiable. We'll spend every last dime preserving them, and when we run out, guess what? We'll make more.

The difference is in what we're playing for. Russia and Iran seek the greater glory of....Russia and Iran. Freedom loving individuals seek to be left alone to do their thing to the greatest extent possible. The latter is a much greater individual motivator.

Where China goes from here is an open question. At least they seem to realize the future lies in economic policy and strategy, not in military show-boating. Like lawyers, a strong military is something you have to have because everyone else has one. It is not the means to achieving prosperity. They are a means of protection, not of production.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Axe Body Odor Study - "People Stink"

Perhaps the best example of the power of mass manipulation is not any government conspiracy, but high heels. Somehow, marketers convinced women that they should walk around with sticks under their heels, and they've been doing so ever since.

Another premise that the general public has bought hook, line and sinker is that no human being should ever have to be subjected to the smell of another human being. The latest study was sponsored by, or course, a deodorant and body spray company. It measured odor "intensity" and suggests that now that smoking is out in bars and clubs, the odor of human is more prevalent.

Of course people should wash, wear clean clothes and not smell of aging bacteria, but the "odor of human" has only become a putrid thing due to the successful efforts of Madison Avenue. These are the same folks who suggest that the minute you feel the least bit uncomfortable you take a bubble bath, some pepto bismol, a pain reliever, some anti-depressants, it really doesn't matter what. Just buy something.

How much of the world's resources go into the attempt to reach the now established Utopian state of constantly feeling euphoric and smelling only pre-approved flowery smells while looking like Angelina Jolee or Brad Pitt?

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Deja Vu, the Carter Era and the Obama Era

The similarities are almost spooky. Energy prices are high. People are worried about scarce commodities. The economy is struggling. These are all cyclical issues and not surprising to see come up again. The eerie similarity between the Carter Era and the Obama Era is in the response to these issues.

Carter, the media, the left, hollywood and much of the public believed the answer to our woes was to turn down the thermostat, wear heavier clothing, use less stuff, essentially, get used to a lower standard of living.

Obama, the media, hollywood and interest groups are now recommending that we inflate our tires more, tune up our cars, drive less, drive smaller cars, wear sweaters, sort our garbage, consume less, essentially, get used to a lower standard of living.

It's similar to Mexico's approach to their economic woes. The government openly admits they don't discourage illegal immigration to America, because subjecting people to the incompetence of their government would be inhumane. They want to have power, but don't want to be expected to produce results.

It didn't work in the 70's. It wont work now. We certainly could just throw up our hands and lower our expectations and our quality of life, but this is still America. We just don't want to, and we don't have to.

It's ironic that the author of "The Audacity of Hope" is promoting hopelessness. Of course, those who do propose that we all make do with less regularly jet around the world in private planes, vacation all over the world, have at least one yacht, wear $3,000 suits and get $400 haicuts.

We aren't going to conserve our way out of this doledrum. We can be more efficient, but we will always want more, better, faster, cooler stuff. It's how we're wired. It's what we do. What we need from the government is to enable the free market and free people to make our wishes real. Just get out of the way.

Monday, August 4, 2008

McCain VP Choice - Steve Forbes?

Most of the names I've heard mentioned for McCain's choice of VP are "do no harm" choices. They aren't likely to get anybody real excited, but they wont cause a lot of controversy. Rice would be an exception, but he's not going to call on her because she's too close to Bush and doesn't want the job.

One that hasn't been talked about much, but that I believe would be a home-run, would be Steve Forbes. Some points to ponder:

Conservatives and Capitalists would be ecstatic. They've been reluctant to jump on the McCain bandwagon up to this point. With Forbes on the ticket, all that goes away. While the left would paint him as the ultimate corporate insider, I think most Americans concerned about the economy would be receptive of a very successful CEO.

He's been thouroughly vetted. He's run for president himself, has his own magazine and is a regular on TV once a week. Nothing about Forbes' positions is going to surprise or shock anyone. He can certainly hold his own in a debate and he's been speaking in public since he was able to talk.

As far as special interest influence, he's untouchable. He has more money than God. What are you going to bribe him with? Knicks tickets? I don't think so.

He compliments McCain well. Both have the "maverick" image going for them. Together they would present a ticket interested in actually solving problems and getting things done as opposed to "winning the news cycle"

I don't expect it to happen. I'm sure McCain's advisers are looking for a fresh face or a swing state pick. Sure would be nice if competence counted for something, but in politics, it rarely does.

A Bit of Persuasion for Domestic Drilling - Tell Congress to Vote

Although 70% of Americans favor more domestic drilling, the leadership in the House and the Senate wont even let the matter come up for a vote. Perhaps they need a "bit" of persuasion.

Here's the idea: Send your Representative and Senators a small drill bit in the mail, with the message "drill already!" Send one each to Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid as well.

You can find your Congress persons contact info Here.

I'd recommend a very small bit (1/16" or smaller). It will make the point without alarming anybody and you can tape it to your letter and mail it with a first class stamp.

Pelosi and Reid are protecting their party members by not having them record a vote against domestic drilling just before an election. They need to be reminded who they work for. Let's drill the point home.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

You Can Send 12 Million Illegal Aliens Back Home

They said it couldn't be done, but it's being done. The Center for Immigration Studies reports that the illegal immigrant population in the U.S. has declined by 10% over the past year, and that the vast majority of them returned on their own.

Stepped up enforcement, id requirements and employers more reluctant to take a chance on hiring illegal workers have simply made hiding out in the US less attractive.

Many people had suggested that tougher immigration enforcement measures were a waste of time and that there was no way anyone was going to round up 12 million illegal immigrants and send them all home. It appears that isn't necessary. All you have to do is make going home and coming in the right way more comfortable than staying here and hoping you don't get caught. At the current pace, the illegal immigrant population would be insignificant in 10 years.

Here's the article from Newsmax:

Study: Illegal Aliens Are Leaving the U.S.

Amid alarmed cries that the illegal immigration problem is spiraling out of control, the number of illegal aliens in the U.S. has actually declined since last summer — and many who have left have returned home on their own.

A report by the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), based on Census Bureau data, estimates that the illegal immigrant population in the U.S. has gone down by 11 percent through May after peaking in August 2007.

That means the illegal population has declined 1.3 million since last summer, from 12.5 million to 11.2 million.

“The estimated decline of the illegal population is at least seven times larger than the number of illegal aliens removed by the government in the last 10 months, so most of the decline is due to illegal immigrants leaving the country on their own,” the report asserts.

The CIS maintains that stepped-up enforcement rather than the sluggish economy is leading to the decline in illegal aliens, which began before there was a significant rise in their unemployment rate.

The report points out that the fenced portion of the U.S. border has increased significantly in the past 18 months, the number of Border Patrol agents has more than doubled in recent years, and the number of detention beds used to hold illegals has more than doubled since 2000.

According to the CIS, the evidence “indicates that illegal immigrants respond to changing incentives and that many would return home on their own if they felt enforcement was a real possibility.”

The CIS also notes that when Congress failed to pass legislation last summer that would legalize illegal immigrants, the illegal alien population began to decline almost immediately.

If that decline were to be sustained, the illegal population would drop by one half in the next five years, according to the CIS.

The organization concludes: “It is sometimes argued that illegal immigrants are so permanently attached to their lives in the United States that no amount of enforcement would ever make a large share of them return to their home countries. The findings of this report . . . contradict that.”

The Christian Science Monitor in an editorial attributes the “success story” disclosed by the CIS study to “Washington’s wake-up call last summer to beef up enforcement, from plugged leaks in the border to cracking down on employers who hired illegal workers.”

The Monitor adds, “John McCain only reluctantly came around to the ‘enforcement first’ idea last year while Barack Obama opposes it. Perhaps this study will make them true converts.”

McCain vs Obama, The Home Stretch

As the presidential race enters August, there's been a change in the dynamics. Obama had been enjoying a lead ranging from 4 - 8 percent over McCain since June. Now polls show the race at a dead heat. What happened?

Obama is basically employing the same strategy he used in the primaries. He's staying vague, focusing on emotion and implyint that any serious criticism of him is based on race. He's trying to run out the clock.

The problem is too much clock and McCain is not Hillary. Obama had enough political capital to carry him from January to June in the primaries. He was able to turn criticism of him by the Hillary campaign into embarrasing retractions and apologies from the Clinon campaign.

He does not have enough political capital to coast from August to November. He's at a tie at this point. He's no longer the new guy. It's not about making a good first impression anymore. He actually has to change minds. To do that, you have to say something new and different. Additionally, McCain's response to accusations of racism is not apologetic, it's angry. Obama and his campaign are the ones apologizing for the insinuations or "clarifying" their statements. He's having to spend more time explaining that he didn't mean what he said than on his campaign message.

McCain has his own challenges. He's managed to get people to take a more critical look at Obama, but they are also going to want answers from McCain. His recent changes in position have made many in his own party a bit nervous. On the plus side, when he does change his mind, like on offshore drilling, he clearly states that he changed his mind rather than trying to insist his position hasn't changed when it clearly has. However, what he needs to learn and express is the difference between a senator and a chief executive. The President of the United States is not a member of any Gang of 14 or Group of 10 consensus building club. An executive has to be a product champion. There are issues and principals one doesn't comprimise on. He has shown that capacity on winning in Iraq. Now he needs to demonstrate it on energy policy, taxes, reigning in government spending, particularly earmarks. The Democrat base is far more forgiving of pragmatism than is the Republican base ("read my lips..."). If they're not convinced their candidate will forcefully defend their ideals, they'll sit this one out and wait for the next election.

Neither candidate has this thing in the bag. It's going to be a daily slugfest and should be fun to watch. With more media outlets and recording devices than ever in the history of US presidential campaigns, it should be the best reality show on TV.

Friday, August 1, 2008

The "Gang of 10" Energy Plan - Congress Covers its Butt before Recess

A crisis was brewing and Congress responded decisively and effectively. Not to the energy crisis, but to the fact that their constituents were going to give them an earful for going on 5 week recess without doing anything on energy strategy.

It was ingenious really. Because it was proposed the day before the summer break, no action need be taken on it. Congress can tell their constituents "we're working on it" without actually doing anything. The plan includes declarations that cars will be more efficient in 20 years, some new offshore drilling, grants for alternative energy research (which have a long history of producing nothing), carbon capture proposals, so we'll have more "toxic waste" to dispose of, "support" for nuclear energy and other feel good measures.

The plan was so weak that immediately after the press conference, crude went from down 36 cents to up $4. The impression that I, and obviously the oil market got was clearly that Congress is still absolutely clueless about the need for more energy supply in this country and that their primary interest is in getting re-elected.

A serious approach to alternative energy would not be to throw more research grants at it, but to actually purchase it. McCain's 300 million dollar battery contest idea is actually a good idea; reward results, not proposals. Simply declaring that cars will run on alternate fuels with no plan for getting there is useless. A better idea would be to mandate alternative fuel cars within the federal government's fleet and within new construction on federal buildings. The technology exists right now. There are several companies ready to manufacture thin film photovoltaics, urbine turbines, fuel from algae. All many of them need is commitments from customers.

If it were only an economic issue I'd say no government action is the best action, but we are funding our enemies war against us. Developing new sources of energy is a matter of national security and the need is immediate. The Gang of 10 proposal today and its widespread bi-partisan support shows that without a doubt, our government still doesn't get it. Don't subsidize. Don't tax. Don't regulate. Just buy it!