Tuesday, 9 December 2008

The Front Fell Off

Sometimes you just need a good chuckle! This one gets me everytime! Enjoy!

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Federal Budget Info - Must See Video

This movie is in the process of becoming Oscar Nominated. They have made it to the top 15, and hopefully they will become one of the official Oscar Nominees.

It is currently showing at selected theatres around the country, but they were kind enough to send me an abbreviated version of their documentary.

I hope that you enjoy it and learn a bit in the process.


Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Bail Out Tally - 2008

Here is the list I have compiled of the Federal Bail Outs and Bridge Loans that have been issued so far in 2008. When you add this to our current budget deficit, it paints a pretty scary picture.

630 Billion – Added Bank Liquidity

25 Billion – Ford/GM

840 Billion – Bail Out Law

85 Billion – AIG

29 Billion – Bear Stearns

200 Billion – Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac

Running Tally: 1.8 Trillion Dollars

Under Discussion - Another 25 Billion to Auto-Makers

If I missed one, let me know.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Why John McCain and America should be worried about Sarah Palin

From the perspective of many Republicans, the choice of Sarah Palin seemed to be a brilliant one. Mrs. Palin is an attractive, ambitious, tough, witty, popular, pro-life Republican Governor that connects with “Joe Six Pack”. She’s got a great story, a nice smile, and a killer instinct. Don’t forget she also took on some of the members of her own party and won, which complements McCain’s “Maverick” brand. What a smart choice! Or was it…

For the reasons listed above Sarah Palin was on my top 5 list of people that McCain might choose, but I didn’t really pay her much attention because I had convinced myself, that John wasn’t really going to try to court the Hillary vote. I figured that Mr. McCain knew that so few of Hillary’s supporters would toss their issues aside and would automatically run towards the female in the election that it wouldn’t be worth going after their votes. Additionally, I figured that at least McCain’s campaign staff would know that the person that started the “PUMA PAC” had donated money to him, so the people leading “PUMA” outrage were already in his corner furthering my belief that John wouldn’t pick Sarah. I figured that the McCain campaign would know that the economy would be the big issue in this election and therefore he would end up choosing Mitt Romney, even though they reportedly don’t get along very well.

You can imagine my surprise when he announced the nomination of Sarah Palin as VP at the Republican Convention. I looked at my husband and said, “Well, it looks like I have some more research to do.” Accordingly, I spent a good part of that following weekend searching through articles from Alaskan news papers and basically found out that all of the characteristics I listed above were correct, but my research found some characteristics that just may end up being bad news for McCain, particularly if he wins…

What else did I learn in my research both that weekend and over the past few weeks?
Well, for one Sarah Palin is no dummy. Palin has a killer political instinct. She may not be the most knowledgeable or well spoken person on any given subject, but she does have a knack for knowing what people want to hear and giving them just that accompanied by a side of home-town pie. While this may be good for a campaign, it’s not necessarily what would be good for a VP, particularly the VP to a President that is a 72 year old cancer survivor that has already lived longer than both his father and grandfather. I am not trying to play the age card, I don’t think his age rules him out at all, it’s just that statistically, he has a higher probability of passing away in office than other candidates like Romney or Giuliani do, which means Sarah Palin has a higher probability of becoming President. With her increased probability of becoming President, she better start hitting the books.
Sarah Palin is a very influential person. I mean this in its truest sense. She has the ability to gain the affection and trust of others and then use that affect what those people think. This of course does not mean that everyone will always agree with her and do what she wants, but many will. Given this fact, she could easily use a velvet glove to get her agenda on the board regardless of what her boss thinks. It would not be much of a challenge for her to strike up alliances with McCain’s advisors and cabinet members and use them to help push through what she thinks should be done.

Sarah loves loyalty. Who doesn’t want someone on their ticket who’s loyal? Oh, I guess I should clarify; Sarah loves those that are loyal to her. In fact, in Alaska she often hired her friends from high school to fill government jobs regardless of their past experience. And what happened to those that were not 100% loyal to her and everything she wanted, she had no use for them. Sarah frequently fired people for not “towing the line”. But, wait a minute, wasn’t she within her rights to do this? Yes, she was in fact within her rights to fire people for this or any other reason but, should everyone get fired if they disagree with their boss? Does anyone here wish that someone had spoken out to Bush about Iraq, or deregulation? I know I do. You see, in Sarah’s mind, if the Mayor/Governor/President says this is what I want to do, and then everyone else should fall in line. She does not tolerate dissenters. She says that if you don’t agree with her that’s OK and you can tell her that but once she says “Thanks but No Thanks”, it’s time for you to shut up and carry out her plans. I guess there are people out there that like this type of leadership, but I do not. It was people willing to go against the power brokers that founded and worked to perfect this country. It has always been the dissenting voice that has made the biggest impact; from Franklin, and Jefferson, and Adams, to Lincoln to Parks to King. The dissenting voice has always been welcome in America, and I would like it to stay that way.

Sarah Palin is very ambitious. She worked to become a sportscaster, a business owner, a mayor, and a governor. I don’t think there is much doubt at this point that she really wants to be VP and ultimately President. Is this bad; No, not in and of itself. It would be a challenge to find a VP that didn’t at one time or another want to be President, but in the case of Mrs. Palin, her ambition seems to affect the way she does her job. She works harder for the next job than she does at the current job. Additionally, when you combine it with the other characteristics listed above, it could prove to be difficult management situation for McCain.

Sarah is deeply religious. Not just your ordinary go to church every Sunday say a bedtime prayer kind of religious, but the crusading end of days is nigh kind of religious. Again, there may be plenty of people that are comfortable or even comforted by someone like this being in the White House, but certainly not me. Now I don’t care if someone is religious or not, your religion is none of my business, but when you bring your religion into your public policy making it very quickly becomes my business. I am not worried about the “Oh, I am Christian so I wouldn’t vote for gay marriage” type of bringing religion into public policy (which is still wrong). I am worried about the type of religious that brings the thought process of “Well, God gave me the thought of bombing Iran so it must be the right thing to do and if thousands of people die in the process, it’s OK because it’s all a part of God’s plan and he will make sure it all turns out well” into public policy. John McCain as a normal go to church kind of Christian should be a little afraid of having someone like this in his administration.

She thinks that the role of VP is whatever she wants it to be. She said (on video) that she would have to make sure that the VP job would be enough to keep her busy before she accepted the job and then she said (also on video) that she’s glad the Constitution would allow for more expansion of power when working with the Senate. Well that is only true if you interpret the Constitution’s wording of “The Vice President of the United States shall be the President of the Senate, but shall have no vote role unless they be equally divided” as meaning that as the “President” of the Senate you can do whatever you want. Historically, the role of “President of the Senate” has meant that you just make sure that proper order is followed and you cast the tie breaking vote, not that you are the Senate’s Operations Manager and you lobby the Senate to do what the President of the United States wants. It should prove to be very interesting (and scary) to see what happens if she gets her wish.

So what does all of this mean for McCain? Many of us realize for now, the future of the Republican Party is Sarah Palin. There are already rumors circulating that regardless of whether or not McCain wins, Palin will be running for President in 2012. Who do you think McCain’s staffers will be aligned with; McCain who has used phrases like “In my term” not “in my first term” mind you but “in my term” meaning only one term as President or Sarah Palin who has used the phrase “in a Palin/McCain administration”? My money is on Sarah. McCain’s staffers will want to stay employed and their best way of making that happen is to be loyal to Sarah rather than to John. When you add this to the list of characteristics listed above, McCain will have a tough time keeping in control of his own administration. I would suggest that McCain go have a little talk with Mr. Bush about what it’s like to lose control of your own administration and party. This could end up being as poor of a VP choice for McCain if he wins as it was for America.

Thanks for reading!

PS. Here are a few links to get you started on your own research:

Saturday, 30 August 2008

A Disturbing Answer

I will apologize up front if this post is offensive to any of my readers, it is certainly not meant that way. I am posting this because although it may be controversial, I am legitimately concerned and curious about what people think of this issue. Thanks for reading and I am sincerely interested in hearing your thoughts on this.

Back on August 16th McCain and Obama were interviewed by Pastor Rick Warren at the Saddle Back Church for what was titled a Civic Forum. Pastor Warren asked a very specific question about when the candidates believed that human rights began. This was clearly a question about being Pro-Life or being Pro-Choice, not that anyone watching would be in doubt over who held which opinion, but it was his interview and therefore his right to ask.

Obama gave an answer that clearly showed how uncomfortable he was with the question. He talked about how neither religion nor science can absolutely state as fact when human consciousness begins and therefore he can't really say, and that basically the verdict is still out in his mind. It was not an eloquent answer, but an honest one. It was the answer of a thinking man, one that shows he clearly wrestles with this issue in his own mind and one that shows he realized the crowd would want a "conservative" answer but that his supporters would want a "liberal" answer.

On McCain's turn he very clearly and quickly stated "at the moment of conception". This answer received a very loud round of cheers from the crowd. Now I know McCain is Pro-Life and that his answer meshes with that and it also meshed with the predominately Pro-Life audience. However, his answer has really been bugging me over the past couple of weeks. OK, honestly, a lot of his answers have been bugging, but this one in particular. Think about the ramifications of his answer.

Seriously, think about it.

He believes that human rights begin at the very precise moment of conception. I know it sounds simple enough, but is it? Really?

Does he really, truly believe this?

So, he believes that it has all of the rights as you do long before anyone even knows of it's presence. Before it shows on a test, before you get your first bout of morning sickness, before you miss a cycle.

If so, then an abortion would clearly mean pre-meditated murder and should land you on Death Row.

If so, then a miscarriage would mean either legal recklessness, criminal negligence, or out right manslaughter. These crimes carry jail sentences ranging from 5 years to 20+ years. Of course I'm sure he would add a clause to the law that says if you can prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that it was purely a biological result of a chromosomal anomaly, then you don't go to jail.

If so, then the morning after pill, would also be premeditated murder and would land you on Death Row.

If so, then having a beer the day after you conceive, before you have an inkling of being pregnant would be contributing to the delinquency of a minor (at least a $500 fine) or possibly even criminal recklessness, if your baby has any sort of defect and someone knows you had a beer the day after you conceived.

Does he really believe this? If not, it was a simplistic, shallow answer given by a man looking for an applause line. If he does, then we need to be very careful about how we proceed, not only in this election, but also in the case of him winning.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Funny, sad, and true

Here is Stephen Colbert's latest "The Word" segment. Once again he is right on and funny about a topic that is no laughing matter. One more example of poor government spending.

Friday, 13 June 2008

The Oil Crisis

I have heard many Republicans/Republican Leaning pundits on news & radio shows recently that what is keeping gas prices so high is that the Dems won't let us drill for more oil here in the US.

Of course I am supporting Obama, so I am a little bothered by these claims, but even if I were not, I just think it is silly to point our fingers at one group and say it's all their fault. Because of this, I was inspired to write this post, after doing some research of course.

Just for the record, I am an Independent that is supporting Obama.

While many Dems may be blocking drilling in places like ANWR, Alaska (which just so happens to be a Wildlife Refuge, hence the name A-rctic N-ational W-ildlife R-efuge) and this may account for part of why oil prices are high, it is by no means the only or prime factor involved.

Factor 1 - Production/Refining
Current US Oil Consumption = 20.7 million barrels/day
Current US Refining Capacity = 17.4 million barrels/day

And yet, we have fewer refineries now than we did in 1982 (149 today compared to 301 in 1982) and we have not built any new refineries since 1976. Why? Simple. They are too expensive. Refineries can take 10+ years to get permitted and built and can cost upwards of $3.5 Billion to build. With this type of time and capital expenditure, it could take 13+ years for a single refinery to become profitable. Companies just aren't wiling to do this.

With this being said, I would love for these "Drill Heads" to explain to me how we are going to refine all this "new oil" that we pull out of ANWR and other areas, when we already can not refine enough gasoline to meet our current needs. We are already importing refined oil as well as unrefined oil. Do they just want us to drill for more oil here in the US so we can then ship it to another country to be refined and then ship it back to the US for public use? Wouldn't this be costly as well?

Factor 2 - Non US Production
Most of us have probably also heard the occasional person blame OPEC for our current oil woes. While again, they certainly have an influence on oil prices (just as refining does) they are also only one of the factors involved. What most people don't know is that we actually import less than 50% of our oil from OPEC countries. In fact most recently it was 47.28%. Clearly production control over 47% of our oil will certainly affect our prices and I am by no means suggesting that it doesn't. What we fail to recognize is that we are not the only market they sell to, and as far as world demand goes, they have not had huge outcry from all of their purchasers to increase production. Additionally, they produce oil for profit, and if it were your business, why would you sell your product for less than what you could get for it? What can we do about it? Well, we could start buying more oil from Non OPEC countries that prove they are willing to sell us oil for less.

Factor 3 - The Open Market
As with other commodities like gold, oil is traded on the open market. You can trade oil and gasoline just like you can do with gold, stocks, and bonds. This also impacts our oil prices due to people expecting oil to become more and more valuable over time causing them to purchase this commodity, which in turn sends the price up. If we increase refining/production or reduce demand we could impact prices, but again we are not the only people wanting to buy and use gas and other oil products, so the amount of the impact is unknown.

Factor 4 - Inflation/Dollar Devaluation
As we all know, inflation has a major impact on the price of goods and services. Over the past 40 years, the US dollar has lost over 80% of it's purchasing power, meaning and item that cost you 16 cents in 1968 would cost you 1 dollar today. When you look at it from the perspective of 1 dollar it may not seem like much, if you look at from the perspective of a house, it is huge. Take for example my home. Today it costs $150,000 for my 3/2 suburban home but in 1968 it would have cost a mere $24,000. That's a pretty big difference, a $126,000 difference in fact. Overtime, as the dollar declines in value (or as inflation goes up whichever way you prefer to look at it) this raises the cost of what we buy. Gas in 1968 a gallon of gas cost about 34 cents/gallon. Today it costs an average of $4.02/gallon. If inflation were the only cause then gas would be around $2.15 - wouldn't we all love that! :)

Factor 5 - Oil Company Profits
I have also heard people on the left (my peeps) complaining that oil companies are to blame. The greed of these companies is the great unspoken evil of our time. While again corporate greed is a factor, it is by no means the main factor. When Bush took office in January of 2001 (technically February since he was not sworn in until the 20th of Jan) the price of oil averaged $29.00/barrel or $1.52/gallon for gasoline. Today oil closed at $134.86 per barrel or $4.02 per gallon. If you do a simple ratio on this, if oil companies increased their price per gallon at the same rate as the increase of oil prices then a gallon of gas would cost you $7.07. So, even though the Big Oil companies have been making record profit, they have not been increasing the price of gas at the same rate that the price of oil has been increasing. They have however, made quite a bit of money off of the other products derived form oil such as fertilizer.

All in all, I think it's fair to say that there are many factors involved in the increase of oil and gas prices. Every thing from demand to production, to the market and more. I write this to ask you to think about it more in depth the next time you hear any politician or pundit blame any one of these factors for our current situation. My suggestions? Try to shop smart for gas (not all gas stations are priced equally) and do your best to reduce your own dependence on oil. You could try to get a car that gets better gas mileage, or see if your boss will let you work from home, or work an alternative schedule like 4 ten hour days instead of 5 eight hour days, or take public transportation at least 1 day per week. I know that these suggestions are not feasible for everyone, which is why I believe that our only true recourse is to starting investing in/using alternate fuels.

Thanks for reading!

Don't believe me? Check it out for yourself:

Monday, 9 June 2008

Poll Results

Thanks to all who participated in my most recent poll!

The Top Issues are:
  • Iraq
  • Washington Corruption
  • The Economy
  • Heath Care
  • Education
  • Tax Reform

I will start working on getting posts written about these issues, and I look forward to reading your comments and feedback. I sincerely hope that we can start a good discussion about these incredibly important issues.


Thursday, 29 May 2008

Top Issues Poll

Hi Everyone!

I have created a "Top Issues" poll, which can be found to the right of this post. I plan on using the results of this poll to help guide me in choosing subject matter to write about. Although this blog has not had a lot of comments posted to it (though most of you have sent me emails about it) I really hope that writing about the issues important to you, will help generate more activity.

Thanks for participating!

Thursday, 15 May 2008

The National Interest

We often hear politicians talk about doing what's in our "National Interest" but few of us actually understand what is meant by this. Not that I proclaim myself to be an expert, but as someone who has watch the news religiously for the past 25 years, has spent a great deal of time around politicians, military contractors, and diplomats, and as someone who devours political books/movies, I do feel I have developed a fairly accurate view of political speaking and thinking.

It is my impression that most of us (us being the average American) think the term "National Interest" refers to doing what is best for the American citizenry. It makes sense, right? The citizens make up the nation, so the National Interest is the citizen's interest. However, this is not always the way it is viewed in Washington DC.

To understand the term "National Interest" we first have to define it. It's most simply (and probably most accurately) defined as doing what is needed to help create, protect, and improve the major industries that provide the base needs of the population. These base needs/industries include Food, Housing, Energy, Money, Jobs, Security, Transportation, Health Care, and Communications. Why these? Well, let's see:

  • Food - You can't survive if you don't have food/water.

  • Housing - Shelter is needed for both survival and comfort.

  • Energy - While technically you could physically survive without it, it certainly has become a part of everyday life and allows you to live longer and more comfortably. It helps to keep you warm in the winter, cool in the summer, and to properly store and cook your food. It also assists transportation and many other luxuries.

  • Money/Banking - Once again, you may be able to survive without it but, I think we can all agree that the vast majority of people in the US need it to survive.

  • Jobs/Education - Most people do not have a trust fund or are able to be full-time investors so, we do need jobs in order to get the money that helps to ensure our survival and we could not obtain or perform these jobs without a certain amount of education.

  • Security - If you are constantly concerned about being injured or killed, you will not be very effective in the other areas of your life needed for your survival.

  • Transportation - You need this to get to work, the grocery store, hospital and other places which all help to ensure your survival.

  • Health Care - While like other areas, you may be able to survive without it, it definitely helps you to live longer and more comfortably.

  • Communications - Again, you may be able to survive without it, but without it, the other industries listed above would be severely hindered which would impact your life greatly.

So, if doing what is in the National Interest would be doing what is best for these industries then obviously, protecting these industries would also be in the interest of the American citizenry. This is the tact that I think Washington DC should take, but unfortunately at some point in the last 50 years many in Washington DC have confused protecting an industry with protecting corporations, and those company's bottom lines.

It is one thing to protect an overall industry through legislation/regulation, and it is something entirely different to pass legislation to bail out financially insolvent/inefficient companies, and to subsidize financially profitable companies.

Some in DC act as if one major company fails then that company's entire industry would fail. If a large company was to fail, trust me, there are many other companies that would love to fill in the gap that would be left behind in the market. I know that no elected official/politician would want to be associated with allowing a company to close (because of potential job loss), but they also need to understand that one specific company closing does not automatically mean that the employees of that company would not be employed by the businesses that step in to pick up the slack.

Example 1: If a major airline was to fail, then the other airlines would pick up the markets that the failed company was serving. The flights would still need to happen, those flights would still be US flights, and the planes and crews used for those flights would still be needed. Though an airline would not be required to pick up the existing planes/routes/staffs of these flights, it would make sense for the other airlines to purchase the planes and hire their crews to service these routes, rather than going out and trying to purchase all new planes, and hiring/training all new flight crews to cover routes that have been served for years.

Example 2: The US government has provided funding to banks so they can purchase other banks that were failing due to poor management or poor investment decisions. In one particular case recently the bank that was being given the loan made in the area of 4 Billion dollars days before the 29 Billion dollar loan was issued even though the bank they were purchasing was being sold for 236 Million and held assets of 30 Billion. All of this means that the purchasing bank received a loan for 29 Billion and assets of 30 Billion for the purchase of a bank for 236 Million. Did this loan really need to take place?

Now, I know that a lot of you will also want me to point out the "subsidies" that the Oil Companies get as another example of the government ruling in favor of specific companies, but I can not do this. In fact, it is an example of the right way to protect an industry that is necessary to our economy and general welfare. In the case of Oil Companies, the industry as a whole is given a break, not just specific companies. The Oil industry is allowed to reduce it's taxable earnings by 15% in exchange for continuing to produce oil & gas. Small companies and large companies are both allowed to take advantage of this benefit. This means that Oil & Gas companies pay a corporate tax of 20% rather than the standard rate of 35%. I am OK with this type of industry protection and wish it applied to more industries such as Farming, Transportation, and Health Care.

What I am not OK with, is that US Oil Companies that have subsidiaries overseas do not have to pay tax on the revenue born out of their overseas offices as long as the money stays overseas. In essence, if Exxon opens an office in Dubai, then they don't have to pay any tax on the money generated from their Dubai office as long as the money stays in a Dubai bank. I don't think Exxon cares what bank account their checks are drafted from, do you? This overseas tax exemption applies to more than just the oil industry and has been taken advantage of by many of the US's largest companies. In my opinion, this type of legislation is unfair because it unduly favors large Companies rather than protecting an industry. It is unfair because small companies are not able to open outlets in foreign lands just to receive this same benefit.

Additionally, we have offered tax credits to companies that have been shipping jobs overseas. This is different from the oil tax credits, which allow them to pay lower taxes, this tax credit is implemented as a way for companies with overseas workforces (like manufacturing) to use a different method to calculate their profit and allows them to bring their overseas profit back to the US at substantially reduced tax rates. By the way, oil companies also qualify for this because under the bill (HR 4520) oil production is now seen as manufacturing. This is crazy to me. We should be offering these benefits to companies that keep their manufacturing in the US not offering it to companies that sending manufacturing jobs away from us.

Do these things serve the National Interest? Do they help secure the US and it's people or do they serve Corporations instead? Many would argue that the workers, though pensions and 401Ks, are invested in these companies and so if the companies are protected then so are the workers and by default the economy, but since when will a pension or 401K pay for the mortgage and electric bill of a 40 year old worker that has been laid off?

I think we need to get back to looking out for the American people first and it's companies second.

Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Obama on The Issues

Now that I published that I am for Obama, I have heard many people stating that they like Obama, but they just don't know where he stands on the issues, so here are some links so you can see where he stands on different issues, in his own words.




The American Dream/The Shrinking Middle Class


VA Benefits

The Environment


Health Care


The Economy (5 Parts)
Part 1:
Part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O3R9g5iQcZE
Part 3: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wlRwQ5DJ2EI
Part 4: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5xHW0MuA-n0
Part 5: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jNsZvzBKCzs

Gas Prices

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

The "Primacaucus" Part 2

As a democratic delegate for Precinct 200, what can I say about the Travis County Convention...hmm...well, it was interesting. Convention registration was scheduled from 7:00am to 10:00am and the Convention was supposed to start at 10:00am and last until about 2:00pm, and in case you haven't heard, this isn't exactly how it went down. Registration was extended until 11:30am and the caucus voting didn't end until about 5:30pm.

I arrived at the Convention at 8:00am only to find a mile long (that's right, literally a mile long) line of cars waiting to get into the parking lot. Evidently, the Convention organizers thought that getting 10,000 people into one parking lot would go a lot smoother than it actually did. Anyway, after spending an hour in my car, I was able to park and walk up to the convention building where I discovered another hour long wait to sign in. Surprisingly, everyone in line was remarkably cheerful. People were chanting, clapping, chatting, and smiling. It was amazing to see thousands of people standing in line for at least an hour, and having a good time doing it!

Once inside, the true scale of this convention hit me, as many people as were outside there was an equal amount inside. Imagine, if you can, 10,000 politically active people all hanging out in ONE building. Fortunately there were plenty of restrooms and food vendors on site otherwise the whole thing could have turned ugly.

In the end the Convention was very successful, even though it last until 5:30 (instead of 2:00) and was very frustrating. Too much "hurry up and wait", kind of like sitting in rush hour traffic but for 8 hours. It was still nice spending the day with 10,000 other like-minded people and of course, being able to vote for my Presidential Candidate. Additionally, I was voted to be an Alternate Delegate to the State Convention in June. It should be fun, and hopefully it will go a bit smoother than the County Convention.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, 4 April 2008

My Candidate

Well, I have quite a bit of feedback on this blog (though most of it has been in email form rather people posting comments) and one of the questions I get the most, is which candidate I support. While I have been trying to keep my cards close to my vest, I have decided to go ahead and put it out there. I support Barack Obama.

I first noticed Barack when he was running for the Illinois State Senate. I remember seeing a portion of one of his campaign speeches and thinking, "Wow, this guy is good. If he ever runs for President, it could be a new day in America." He spoke from his heart about improving his community, and how everyone in his district would need to work together to achieve their goals regardless of their political party, socioeconomic background, or current skill set. It was very moving, inspiring, and true. I was really touched by his speech and the funny thing is, it was merely a piece on how this unknown guy in IL won his senate district by a landslide, and not about, hey we found this really amazing speaker/politician. The MSM side note turned into me feeling like I was discovering my generation's Roosevelt, Kennedy, or Martin Luther King. I thought to myself, "I hope someone in the Democratic Party notices this guy, and that it's not just me that sees his potential." Fortunately, others did take notice and he was invited to speak at the Democratic National Convention in 2004. Once again, he delivered, and was instantly thrust onto the national scene. I could go on, but I am sure that you all are familiar with the rest.

As far as why I support him (besides his inspiring speeches) I support him because of the incredible thoughtfulness, intellect, and analytical abilities he has presented. I really like the fact that he is controlled, considerate, and smart…very, very smart.

I like that he seems honest and real. He makes me want to have him as a friend, but he also makes me want to improve myself, and my community.

I support him because he believes in shaping public opinion rather than blindly ignoring it or blindly following it.

He has demonstrated knowledge about the Middle East. He knows that if you are concerned about a nuclear weapons program in Iran, then amassing a 140,000 person strong occupying army in their neighboring country, isn’t necessarily the best way to make Iranians comfortable with abandoning their nuclear program.

He is worldly. Barack has not always been wealthy, he hasn’t always lived in the US, and he hasn’t always been religious. All of this allows him to see multiple points of view and understand how to interact with people from different cultures and backgrounds.

He understands that government assistance programs are supposed to help someone improve their life not give someone a better life. Most people want a helping hand, not a hand out.

He knows that in order to make changes in a country, you have to first inspire the population to act differently.

I support him because he knows that the Presidential Oath is to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States of America, and who better to do this then someone who was once a Constitutional Law professor.

He understands that not all of the good ideas come from one party, which leads me to believe that he is the candidate most likely to assemble an outstanding team of advisers based on their skills and knowledge rather than political party.

I think that all of these traits/skills will allow him to better reason through issues to come up with viable solutions to help the country.

There are many reasons why I support Barack Obama, and I hope that this post has at least made you think about what you want in a President.

PS. I would love to read your comments!

Friday, 14 March 2008

Heath Care and Compare

Here are some web links so you can compare ideas from the current 3 Presidential Candidates on what should be done to address our current health care system. I recently finished reading these myself and you can find my comments peppered throughout this post.

In a Nutshell: Wants to make insurance more affordable and accessible but not mandatory for adults. Suggests giving everyone the option to join a similar insurance program to the one the Senate has. Wants to ban insurance discrimination due to pre-existing conditions and chronic conditions. Stresses preventative care. Suggests federal subsidies to help lower insurance costs for those individuals and businesses that need it. Believes that health care costs will lower if everyone has access to affordable insurance as there will be fewer unpaid medical bills and more people paying into the insurance pool. Also wants to improve technology to help with lowering costs.

In a Nutshell: Wants to mandate insurance coverage for everyone. Suggests giving everyone the option to join the same insurance program the the Senate gets. Wants to ban discrimination due to pre-existing conditions and chronic conditions. Stresses preventative care, and suggests tax credits to help make insurance more affordable for individuals and small businesses. Believes that health care costs will lower if everyone has insurance as there will no longer be any unpaid medical bills and more people paying into the insurance pool. Also, wants to lower industry costs through the use of technology.

Comments: Wants to increase competition among insurance providers, Suggests promoting preventative care and chronic condition care. Wants to facilitate the development of national standards for tracking treatments and outcomes, Suggests lowering costs through technology and Torte Reform to minimize large lawsuit payouts and frivolous lawsuits.

There are some similarities in all 3 of these platforms. Obviously, there is more similarity between Obama's proposal and Clinton's proposal, but even McCain shares some points with the other two. All 3 want to lower medical costs through technology and all stress the importance of preventative care, but the way you "fix" the US health care system is where the biggest differences lie.

Now you can debate on which plan is better than the other. Maybe we should mandate coverage, or make it more available and affordable, or just let the market run it's course but in any case there is one substantial issue that I see with all of the plans. No one states that insurance companies would be required to actually pay for the claims.

It seems pretty basic that if you are paying insurance premiums that the insurance companies would actually cover the bill but often this is not the case. All to often insurance companies go out of their way to find a reason to not pay the bill. They state that the visit was either unnecessary or due to a pre-existing condition, or that the person has yet to meet their deductible or was "over treated". Whatever the reason, the insured individual ends up paying the tab and also has to continue to paying their premiums.

To add insult to this injury, insurance premiums have increased on average 11% per year while salaries have risen on average by only 3.5% annually. For many workers these increased insurance costs come at a time of corporate "caps" on salary which means that higher insurance premiums combined with salary caps will result in people having less take-home money.

I have to admit that the US is the only country I have lived in for any length of time that does not provide universal health care so my views my differ from many of you. Having lived with universal health care, it is something that I am very familiar with and actually agree with. I really enjoyed being able to go to a doctor or dentist without being concerned about how much my insurance would or would not end up paying, but I also understand that America has traditionally favored the free market approach. America is the "pull yourself up by your boot straps country", but in my view the boot strap approach is part of what has lead us to an overall health care industry performance rating of 37th in the world even though we have the #1 most expensive health care system in the world. Now I'm not saying that we have to have a National Health Care System like Canada's or England's but clearly our current system isn't serving us well either.

OK time for a plug: If you have not seen the movie SICKO I would strongly suggest watching it. it chronicles what happens at various points in the insurance claims process and what the outcome was for some folks. It also covers some health care programs outside of the US. Whether you agree with universal heath care or not, it still raise some good points.

I hope this posts helps you all to solidify your thoughts and opinions.

The "Perfect" Candidate

Once again, the Nation is out hunting for the perfect presidential candidate. We ask ourselves:

Is it Hillary? She has been in DC for a long time and has a lot of connections to get stuff done, and it would be nice to see a woman in the White House, and she does legitimately want to help people with their mortgage and heath care problems. Hmm....but then, she has taken a lot of money from insurance and pharmaceutical companies, and then there was those little scandals during her husband's presidency, and there is some sketchy info out there on her prayer group. OK, maybe she's not so perfect.

Is it McCain? He certainly has a lot of experience and knowledge, he is a war hero after all, and he does hate "earmarks" aka pork barrel spending. Hmm...but then, he does want to stay the course on Iraq, and has alluded to bombing Iran, and then he did name Hagee as his spiritual advisor. OK maybe he's not so perfect.

Is it Barack? He is definitely inspirational, he has tried to pass some good stuff in the senate (like improving VA benefits/treatment) and he certainly is intelligent and thoughtful. Hmm...but then, he hasn't been a Washington insider for very long and therefore may not have the experience we want, and then there is his mouthy preacher and his connection to Rezko. OK, maybe he's not so perfect.

How about Ron Paul? He does want to get rid of the IRS and he hates pork barrel spending. Hmm... but then, he is not that great of a public speaker, and he also wants to restrict reproductive choice and he wants to get rid of the Federal Dept of Education. OK, maybe he's not so perfect either.

All of these candidates have good points and bad points and realistically, if you put any human under a microscope none of us will truly stack up to our expectations.

Why do we want our candidates to be "perfect" anyway? Wouldn't you rather have someone capable of rational thought, maybe someone that has even changed their mind occasionally because they received new information, or someone that is capable of learning from mistakes rather than someone that has led a completely sheltered life and feels that they are never wrong? Isn't two Bush terms enough? LOL. OK, I guess that was a bit catty,but I think you understand my point. The "perfect" candidate simply does not exist and I think that (at least deep down) we all know this. All we can do is try to pick a President that we believe will actually try to get something positive done for our country.

We need to stop looking to the Mass Media to tell us who to vote for. The media is in the business of selling ads, and to sell ads they need to have ratings, and to have ratings, they need to sensationalize the news. All opinion shows, are just that, opinions. What we need to do is think. Think about what we need. Think about what we can improve. Think about where we want to be in 4, 8, or 10 years. Maybe Health Care is your biggest issue, or Taxes, or Excessive Gov Spending, or maybe you need to feel inspired by your leader. Whatever you think you need the most, go with the candidate that best represents YOU. It is YOUR government, YOUR president and he/she needs to be on YOUR side. You should never feel scared of your government, you should feel empowered by it.


Thursday, 13 March 2008

I am so sick of all the fighting.

Enough already! I am really getting tired of all the fighting amongst the campaigns.

The latest "attack" by Geraldine Ferraro (if you can even really call it an attack) is neither vicious nor accurate. While I don't believe Ferraro said what she did because she is a racist, I also don't believe that the tens of millions of people that have voted for Barack Obama voted for him solely because he is black. To say that people voting for Obama are delusional, naive, pro-black racists, caught up in the emotion/momentum, and are falling for a fairy tale is just plain insulting to his voters, his campaign workers, and indeed Obama himself! Additionally, I don't believe that Hillary is actually a monster nor do I believe that McCain is exactly like Bush.

While many of the attacks are "based on truth" the facts have been greatly distorted. It's kind of like watching a historical drama. Although it may be "based on a true story" the details (aka spin) is the opinion of the writer/commentator relaying the story. Let me clarify some of these points.

Fact: Obama has relatives that are Muslim but he is a Christian.
Spin: Obama was raised as and is a Muslim.
Comment: OK, Obama is a Christian, but even if he wasn't, someone please tell me when exactly did we lose our freedom of religion in this country?

Fact: Hillary is a motivated, ambitious female that is not all about flowers and chick flicks.
Spin: Hillary wants to destroy the country, and she is a monster that will stop at nothing to win.
Comment: Since when is being motivated and ambitious a bad thing? Haven't we all heard people say that women are to "soft" to be the Commander in Chief of the Military? So, it stands to reason that a "non-soft female" would be preferred to a "soft" one.

Fact: McCain has said that he supports many of the Bush Administration policies.
Spin: McCain equals a third term for the Bush Administration.
Comment: While McCain says he agrees with some of the Bush policies, he has also voted against the Republican Party Line on several occasions. I can't honestly say whether or not he is saying that he likes Bush's policies because he wants the Republican base to vote for him or because he actually agrees with the policies.

Please don't get me wrong. I understand that "spinning" has become an integral part of all campaigns, but I believe that people should only be "spinning" in order to put their candidate in a more positive light. To use this tactic as an attempt to completely discredit a person who has chosen a life of public service in the end does not really benefit any of the candidates, their parties or our country.

I am sure that some of you are asking yourselves why would I defend McCain in this post. Although, I am a self pronounced liberal and a delegate for the democratic party, I feel that it is just as wrong for the "Left" to "tear down" McCain as a person just as I believe it is wrong for people on the "Right" to try to tear down either Barack or Hillary on personal basis. In my view, incorrect spin is incorrect spin.

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Foreign Relations...is business as usual good enough?

These days it seems all to easy to think of foreign relations as strictly a matter of security, but as someone who grew up outside of the US I know first hand that there is a lot more involved with this issue than just the military. It ranges from small issues like the way American Tourists act when in another country all the way up to the issue of pre-emptive war.

There are many issues facing the US within the realm of foreign relations. The increasing tensions over illegal immigration, the seemingly uneasy nature of our country's friendship with Russia, the new world standing of China, and the upheaval in the Middle East and Africa, all of which make me believe that foreign relations is and will be the most important role of the American President for the foreseeable future. With that said, this post will focus on the Middle East.

According to the 2007 World Development Report (produced by The World Bank) there are about 100 million people in the Middle East/North Africa under 24. Additionally, this means that there are well over 100 million people in the Middle East/North Africa that are under the age of 35 (including those under 24).

I lived in and visited the Middle East for many years and I know that they do not all hate us. In fact many of the people there like America very much even if they disagree with some of our actions. The Middle East, as in any area/culture, has people on the far right, the far left, and a whole lot more that fall somewhere in between. It appears to me that over the next 10 to 20 years we have a remarkable opportunity to win over the hearts and minds of those within this age group. If we were to start now, we could change the tide of popular opinion about our country, and in turn improve our population's opinion about them.

Are we sure that we want a President that is hawkish about the war in Iraq, or one that has a desire to pre-emptively begin wars with other Arab countries? Are we sure that business as usual is the correct way to approach the current situations there? I think these are serious matters to think about. I know that I personally would like a different approach. I lived in the Middle East after our bombing of Libya and as a result had to live with the ramifications of our country's actions. I also spent time there during the (first) Persian Gulf War, and saw how the population interacted with our military and vice versa. With this in mind, I can not in good conscience support a business as usual policy.

Clearly, terrorism is something to be condemned, as it is a truly barbaric and futile attempt to affect policy, but at the same time starting wars is just as ineffective. If we truly want to have a strong working relationship with the region of the world that supplies a vast majority of the world's oil, then maybe, just maybe, treating them with respect and asking the same in return is not such a bad idea. I am sure that we all have heard of the phrase "You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar." and whether we want to admit it or not, these are sovereign countries. It seems to me that wanting to occupy foreign countries and being over-eager to kill mass numbers of their populations is a lot more like vinegar than honey.

Voting in Texas...the day after the "primacaucus"

Well, yesterday was voting day for the 2008 primary/caucus in Texas and I have to say that it was a very long and interesting night. I participated in early voting, so for me last night was all about caucusing, and given the immense voter turn out I am very glad that I did early voting.

The polls were open yesterday until 7:00pm and the caucus was scheduled for 7:15pm. Since I had already voted, I arrived at my polling location at 7:15 to caucus. Upon arrival I discovered over 300 people waiting in line to vote/caucus. This is more than I, personally, have ever seen at this location for any election, including the last National Election.

The high voter turnout was very exciting and heartwarming. I was thoroughly proud of my precinct when I saw hundreds of people waiting for hours to vote & caucus without giving up and going home. It was truly a sight to behold.

There were so many people that were in line by 7:00pm that the caucus was delayed by almost 2 hours. For those of you that are unfamiliar with voting in Texas, anyone that is in line by 7:00pm gets to vote. So don't worry, the 150+ hundred people in line to vote at 7:00, got to vote.

So, as I stated earlier, the caucus was delayed by about 2 hours due to higher than expected voter turnout. Once all the voters were done, the caucuses began. In my precinct the Republican caucus happened first. This was a good idea because the room only holds about 200 people and there were almost 400 participating. Personally, I felt kind of bad for the Republicans that were there because there were very few of them. The polling location staff went up and down the lines asking for the Republicans to go ahead inside and start their caucus. Out of the nearly 400 people I only saw 11 people go inside to participate in the Republican caucus.

Once the Republican caucus was completed the Democratic caucus began. We started by forming two single file lines and waiting in queue to sign in. The sign in process was fairly simple. You just had to fill out a form with your Name, Complete Address, and Candidate choice. Then you simply find a place to sit and wait for everyone to finish signing in. Due to the fact that we had almost 400 people signing in to caucus the sign in process took quite a while. After everyone was seated we voted for a Chair and Secretary. The choices were nominated by the crowd and it seems as if we made a good choice, as the rest of our caucus only took about 15 minutes. Having been there for 3 hours a smooth process was exactly what we all wanted and needed. Once the Chair and Secretary were elected, we broke into groups. Those for Hillary Clinton were on one side of the room and those for Barack Obama were on the other side. Next it was time to nominate delegates and alternate delegates. We started by asking who wanted to be a delegate and 24 people volunteered, which was convenient since we needed to find 24 delegates. We then did the same for alternate delegates. Once the delegates were chosen, we voted to confirm them, and recorded the vote on paper. After that we were done, so we adjourned the caucus.

All in all, I spent a little more than 3.5 hours at my polling location but it was all worth it. I got to find out how the caucus and delegate process works and I am happy to say that I am now a democratic delegate! I will make sure to report back after the Travis County Convention on March 29th. It should be very interesting to see how a larger convention works.

I hope you all enjoyed this post and I look forward to reading your comments.

Best of Luck!

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Minimum Wage...how does one live off it?

I have long been curious as to how one would live off minimum wage. Yes, I am very fortunate that this required research on my part!

To tell the truth, I have only had 1 minimum wage job in my life and when I did I still lived at home with my parents. Like many who were lucky enough to catch a few breaks in life, I took advantage of my upbringing, but I have always wondered what life would be like if I had not been dealt such a good hand.

The following is an account of what someone actually gets for their labor at a full-time minimum wage job.

Current Minimum Wage: $5.85 per hour US
Full Time Hours: 2080
Total Annual Income: $12,168.00
Total Monthly Income: $1014.00
Monthly Taxes (SS, Medicare, Income): $197.07
Net Monthly Income: $816.93

Yes, folks that's it. Someone working a full 40 hours per week for 52 weeks a year NETS a grand total of $816.93 per month!

I don't know about where you all live, but in Austin, TX where I am, you would have a hard time putting a roof over your head much less doing anything else. With that being said, there are people who make this, and they do need to survive, so how could you make this happen?

I guess we need to start by identifying the critical components to one's survival.
  • Housing
  • Transportation
  • Food
  • Clothing
  • Health care
Alright, let's start with housing. In general, apartments require that you make at least 3 times the amount of rent in Gross Income. We know that our monthly gross income is $1014.00, so we would have to find an apartment for no more than $338.00/mo. Well, after checking all the apartment guides and the local Real Estate channels, you can not even get an efficiency/studio for this price in Austin. The cheapest I found was $415.00/mo. I even checked what you could get if you had a room mate or rented a room in some one's house, the cheapest I could find with this method was $400.00/mo. Additionally, according to my research the average 1 bedroom apt in Austin spends about $50.00/mo for electricity and utilities. Now the amount of money you have to spend on everything else you need is: $816.93 - $450.00 = $366.93

Next, we have transportation. Now some of you may have friends willing to take you to and from work for free, but most of us do not, so we need to figure out how to get to and from work. Now maybe you already have a car or you have the ability to buy a used car in cash. If you did then you could plan on spending an average of $40.00 per month on liability insurance (see iii.org) and at least another $40.00 per month on gasoline (provided you lived close to work or didn't go on any joy rides) plus another $20.00/mo for vehicle maintenance/registration. Money left over: $366.93 - $100.00 = $266.93

If you do not have a car, don't worry you can get a monthly unlimited bus pass in Austin for $10.00/mo. Frankly, as far as money goes, you would be better off taking the bus rather than having a car anyway. Money left over: $366.93 - $10.00 = $356.93

This brings us to the all important category of Food! Yes, we all need and love to eat! Now, according to wiki.answers.com the average US household spends $3240.00 annually on food. This seems low to me, but I'll go with it. Considering that the average household in the US is 3 people and most adults eat more than kids that would mean that the average adult would spend about $1200.00 on groceries annually which comes out to $100.00 monthly. Surplus cash:
w/car: $266.93 - $100.00 = $166.93
w/o car: $356.93 - $100.00 = $256.93

Next we have clothing. Regardless of how you feel about clothes it is a fact that in our society it is a necessity and most likely at a minimum wage job you will have some sort of uniform/dress code mandated to you, so you will in fact have to spend money on clothing. If you shop at the discount retailers like Wal-Mart, Target, TJ Maxx, and Ross, then you could plan on spending an average of $25.00/mo. If you are thrifty and shop at second hand stores like Goodwill and garage sales, you may be able to save a few dollars off of the 25.00/mo average. Money Left:
w/car: $166.93 - $25.00 = $141.93
w/o car: $256.93 - $25.00 = $231.93

Lastly, we have Health Care. According to a document from meps.ahrq.gov the average US adult spends about $984.00 per year (out of pocket) on health care. As far as I could tell, this seems to include insured and uninsured people and all types of health care costs such as prescriptions, emergencies and dental visits . So with that, we know that one can expect to, minimally, spend $82.00/mo on health care related expenses. Money left:
w/car: $141.93 - $82.00 =
w/o car: $231.93 - $82.00 = $149.93

Fun Money/Savings/Emergency = $60.00 to $150.00/month

After all of this, it would seem that someone earning minimum wage could in fact survive in the US, providing that they work a full 40 hours per week and either don't miss a day or get paid for their sick days/time off. Unfortunately, we know all too well that many companies in America that pay low wages either will not pay for sick days/time off or will not schedule their workers for a full 40 hour week. I know from personal experience and through discussions with friends that many companies will not schedule someone for more than 38 hours, which obviously would make it even more difficult for someone to survive on $5.85/hour.

I hope that you keep this in mind the next time one of your local/state/federal politicians tries to convince you that the minimum wage does not need to be increased. In my opinion, everyone deserves a living wage and clearly $5.85/hour is not it.

Thank you and good luck.

PS. In all fairness and disclosure, the minimum wage will be increasing over the next 17 months to $7.25/hour, but we all know that with inflation and the like, so will our expenses.

Monday, 3 March 2008


Hello Everyone,

I certainly can not claim to be an expert on all things political, but as a fairly well informed citizen I certainly do have an opinion on various public policies. I have set up this blog to voice my thoughts, concerns, and ideas on what is happening in America today. I may often say things that will upset some people,but that is OK for without a voice change never happens. I hope that you will join me on this journey and I welcome your comments.

Thank You,