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Be My Valentine
Some say he didn't get a honeymoon, but Tuesday, at a stop in Florida, there was an early valentine - from Julio:
"Oh, this is such a blessing to see you, Mr. President. Thank you for taking time out of your day. Oh, gracious God, thank you so much."
The transcript doesn't do it justice, you need to watch the video. So this is the typical swing state voter? I guess I'm not surprised at the results anymore. Of course the real result is that Julio thinks he should get better benefits from McDonald's, because he just can't find a better job anywhere else. The best part - after you've watched the video - he wants to be a communications major. Watch out Rush, here's some new competition.
No Valentine here. Congress invited leaders of bailout recipient companies up for a little chat. Looks like there were no strings attached when they got the money, but it's never too late for a few congress people to tie some on. After all, this is the money congress lives off - how dare these companies spend it on business related things. Brad Sherman chastised them for owning corporate jets, and told them that they should sell those jets, and pay back the American people.
"I’d like you to raise your hand if your company currently owns or leases a private plane. Let the record reflect that all the hands went up except the gentleman from Goldman Sachs. Gentleman, we know that it’s extremely expensive to operate the planes. You could sell them and generate capital for your company, and that capital could be used to repay taxpayers immediately."
Quick question for you Brad - where was that brilliance when congress told the American people (remember, that's where the money came from) we needed the bailout right now? If they really could just sell off some assets, tell me who is stupider - the people who took the free money, or the people who gave it to them?
And after they sell the jets - which of course are only used for extravagant, non-necessary, non-business uses - what's next? Sell some buildings, fire some people? You do know that companies use assets to make money - right? I guess that's a foreign concept to congress, isn't that what taxes are for?
At least jet manufactures are fighting this stupidity.
One more question - this time to those CEO's - what were you thinking when you took that money? You think owing the mob is bad, you have no idea.
What Works For You?
In his inauguration speech President Obama said:
"The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works..."
After passing the largest piece of unchecked spending ever, I guess what he really meant was that where big government fails, we'll keep trying bigger and bigger government. Then maybe once we made it as big as possible, we'll give that smaller government a shot.
Nope, not at all related to the election that Al Franking arguably stole. I mean, hey, selected not elected right? But not what this is about. Congress promised to allow 48 hours to review the stimulus bill before they spent another trillion dollars of our money (okay, not quite a trillion, but suddenly a couple hundred billion don't seem that significant). Then both houses voted on it less than 24 hours after it was finalized. Most of it was completely unsearchable consisting of document scans with handwritten notes and edits.
It's almost like they didn't want us - or most of congress - to know what was in it.
Proving that he indeed is not smarter than a 5th grader - Nightline host Terry Moran asked President Obama:
"Why shouldn't you just fire the executives who wrecked these banks in the first place and tanked the world's financial system in the process?"Then setting his sights on 4th graders:
"Why not just nationalize the banks?"Come on Terry, you know Chris Matthews is going to be jealous. And everyone knows that a jealous Chris Matthews can be a pain to deal with.
That's it for this week - remember, let us know what you think is worthy of the WIR.
Credit: Our Boon or Our Bums
One of the major issues in the current economic crisis has been the use or misuse of credit in our economy. Credit has been around for a long time on an unofficial basis. Many store owner would extended limited credit to people they knew. Farmers would use this credit to buy seed and food in the spring and then would pay the store owners back out of their harvest. However, when the farmers used their credit too much without paying it back, their credit would be discontinued by the store owner.
The modern day idea of credit was created in the early 20th century when more expensive items became more common place. Things like cars, washing machines, music boxes, and furniture were priced higher than most average people could afford on a monthly basis. At first, credit was issued on a single purchase basis - a store would allow you to buy now, pay a little bit, and then make up the rest later on a monthly payment plan.
You could not buy everything on credit and most store owners were skeptical of the idea of buying without having the cash on hand. The pitfall of the credit system was the average person properly planning for the future and setting aside money each month to pay for the bills that they incurred. Unfortunately, many people who used this new credit were financially destroyed when the stock market crashed in 1929. This credit was not controlled or regulated by anyone. Credit was given to whoever needed it to buy something, regardless of their ability to pay it back. Banks began to buy stocks and shares on credit in an attempt to make money. Because a majority of the economic powers in our country were becoming credit-based and not cash-based, they had nothing to fall back on when the stock market crashed.
The major reason we were able to pull out of the depression that followed the collapse of 1929 was World War II. War stimulates economies. Once our economy began to function again on its own, we began to approach the idea of credit somewhat carefully. Guidelines were established for people's credit worthiness. This credit worthiness was "supposed" to be based on financial prosperity and availability of funds in the future.
As credit made its comeback in American economics, other issues began to crowd out the real inspection of credit worthiness. Regulatory authorities began to make banks give loans to people who were "minorities" to ensure that loan distribution was "fair". Unfortunately, most of those minorities were in a lower income class. This is not because of discrimination, but because they have come into the country with nothing and must start from the bottom. Many great Americans have started this way and become rich, famous leaders of our country.
Unfortunately, many of the loans given to those with lower income were "risky" loans and were not wise to distribute, but they were in an effort of equality. These loans then were not supported by income. Loans such as this are the scourge of the economic system, but do not seriously injure the economy until they become common.
Another factor that contributed to the serious risk of unpaid loans and credit is the lack of hard work to support the spending of most Americans, regardless of their socioeconomic status. For many decades, the emphasis on hard work and a good work ethic to help you achieve your dreams has been downplayed. Gradually, we have become a society that enjoys pleasure and leisure at the expense of earning the money we need to participate such pleasure and leisure. We have begun to rely on credit and other means of "free" money to allow us to live as we wish. This generation's parents had to work for the things that they acquired, yet we assume that we should have the things that our parents had as soon as we have our own home. In reality, we need to work just as hard as our parents did.
So What is the Solution? Many solutions to complicated problems are complex. Isn't that brilliant!? The first, and most important step is for the government to realize that providing for those who desire to freeload off others is not the way to help our economy. Those who use credit, or welfare for selfish reasons - to avoid getting a job or finding a way to make money - should not have access to these options. The government needs to reinforce the idea that the security of our economic system is not based in the government printing more money or by handing out stimulus packages, but in the hard work and determination of the people of the country.
Our country became great because Americans worked hard to achieve their dreams and never sacrificed their dreams for short term desires. The gift that America offers to people from other lands is the fact that anything is possible in America - if you work for it.
You can achieve your dreams through hard work, determination, and a free market economy. Only with the system that made America great will we "jump start" our faltering economy. God Bless America!
[Editors Note: Until the archives are online, here's the first AO post, introducing the original site back in 2005.]
It's a struggle to find the right way to introduce this publication, this idea, this concept - whatever this is. It's even hard to find an acceptable, nominal introduction. What's to say? It is what it is. But let's try anyway.
It's about thought. About feeling. About belief. It's the conversation you have with a small group of friends over dinner, as you try to solve the world's problems, while still trying to make sense of what they are. It's the back and forth, the struggle of ideas as each is tested, applied, and then reworked. It's the satisfaction of realizing that although you still don't have all the answers - you've seen something in a new light, you've realized why what you thought was true is true, you're no longer on the surface of the issue - you've explored its depths. That's what it's about.
It's about opinion. Not a stiff, sterile, 'objective' viewpoint. An opinion that factors in life - one filtered by experience, passion, and a belief in truth. It's not a map that tells you where, how much, what distance. It's a vista that shows you who, why, what it means. It's perspective - evaluating things in light of everything else. It's about showing you something you've never seen before, seeing something in a new way, or realizing that someone sees it the same way you do. It's about opinion.
It's about absolute. The things that never change. The foundation for everything else. Absolutes are timeless, always relevant, globally applicable. Truth - black and white, good and evil, right and wrong. It's either-or. It's one or the other. It's about things that are mutually exclusive. It's about reality not perception. It's about truth not preference. It's about belief over desire. Faith over feelings. It's about what you can know. It's about absolute.
That's what we're shooting for. Will we make it? Maybe, maybe not, but we'll at least try. Why not stick around and see for yourself? You might agree with us, you might not - but we hope what you see is our honest view of life. We're not afraid of a difference of opinion. We're not afraid of different beliefs. What scares us is the absence of them. The idea that everything is equal, nothing is right, and truth isn't. We're not afraid to believe in something. And we're not afraid to tell you about it.
--The AO Staff
Nation first. Agenda second.
Yes I'd like one stimulus; hold the agenda...
I'm not going to talk about proper ways to stimulate an economy - we would never come to a conclusion. I just want to make a few comments about the "extras" that have been added to the bill.
I'm not pushing my agenda here (except the "save the economy" one). I realize that the current administration has a right to try to pass bills and get their agenda across (despite the fact that I disagree with most of it). It's that they have 4 years to pass those bills. Let's spend time arguing about "Home weatherization" next year, when we are on the way to economic recovery. Let's talk about our education system in 2010, after unemployment stabilizes and growth resumes (assuming it does). We don't need to eliminate our dependence on foreign oil by next year. That would be nice, but it isn't going to help our economy right now - or for that matter - anytime soon.
There is nothing wrong with long term growth initiatives. But why spend time keeping this bill in limbo? They say the "pork" is less than 1% of the bill. I highly doubt that, but if it is WHY NOT JUST TAKE IT OUT? But it's more than just pork, it's the fact that many of the bills earmarks are NOT directly aimed at stimulating the economy. They may even be respectable things for government to spend money on - but this is a stimulus bill, NOT a spending bill.
Do you see my point? I'm not arguing from a partisan point of view. I'm not arguing Monetarist vs. Keynesian (though there is a lot to be said there). I'm just asking why we can't keep focused on the few things that are directly aimed at stimulating the economy? If you think infrastructure spending will help the economy directly...then include it. But STD testing? Hybrid vehicles for Government employees? That's neither Keynesian nor Monetarist. That's agenda - good or bad - it's not what we need and most people know it.
Now enter the politicians and their fear-mongering. This happens on both sides so don't think I'm singling out Democrats. But when I hear that we need to pass THIS bill right now or we will never recover - I hear - We need STD monitoring right now or we will never recover. I hear, We need hybrid vehicles right now or we will never recover. I hear that we need to make all the health records digital and centralize them or we will never recover. Now how important do those earmarks look?
Representative Blarney Frank - perhaps best known for trying to talk over Bill O'Reilly - has a message for bankers: "People really hate you, and they're starting to hate us because we're hanging out with you. And you have to help us deal with that." Looks like Washington is now a lot like High School. I guess the bankers are the new kids. But Blarney, I really don't think you were ever at the popular table. If people hate the bankers more than you, it's only because they don't really know who you are. And what you've done. Like when the Bush administration wanted tighter regulations on lending and you opposed it.
Being number one is hard - there's always someone trying to top you. When it comes to flubbing oaths, Joe Biden is out to prove no one else can come close, most recently having trouble swearing in Hillary Clinton. You hear that Justice Roberts? Back off. Of course maybe he was just a little more nervous than usual. He's first in the line of succession, and now she's fourth - if you get my drift.
New ground has been won in the similar sex marriage campaign. After filing a lawsuit that eventually let to legalization of same sex marriage in Massachusetts, and then of course becoming a legally married couple, Julie and Hillary Goodridge have decided to continue their remarkable leadership. They've recently filed for divorce - not a surprise since they announced their separation in 2006. In any case, it looks like the real winner is lawyers. Hey, it certainly isn't marriage.
Still Making News
Plumber turned political celebrity, 'Joe the Plumber' was the featured guest at a republican aid meeting. No, not a meeting about giving aid to the failing party, but a meeting of aides to congressional republicans. The move may puzzle some, now that the new administration has strengthen its ties to Joe the Plumber. Not long after the plumber's critique of Obama's tax plan, supporters pointed out that Joe hadn't paid some of his own taxes. It is now clear that the quick identification was only possible because of the new administrations expertise in tax avoidance.
It's a tough economy. Governor of Illinois Rod Blagojevich recently lost his job due to some misunderstandings when he tried to auction off former Senator and now President Barack Obama's vacant seat. That and he was impeached. But thanks to hope, change and professional wrestling, he's got another offer . The good folks at TNA Wrestling are huge fans of the "Illinois style of politics", and have offered him the job of chairman of...something I guess. And of course, if he declines, he's free to sell it to the highest bidder.
The Coming Crisis
We live in a time of a great crisis. A defining time, where we must no longer sweep this crisis under the carpet, but boldly face it and say, "Yes, we can." This crisis affects many Americans, regardless of race, political party, wealth or influence. This crisis has been building for years - some would argue the better part of a century. This crisis has been ignored for far too long, by far too many in government.
Hard working Americans - those with their hands on the plow, their shoulder on the wheel - know the reality of this crisis. It's terrifying to think what will happen in just a few short months if something is not done. Already, there are those who've faced heartache, financial hardship, personal loss - all at the hands of this monster, this great behemoth of a crisis.
I for one am glad that the new administration acknowledges this crisis and is serious about what needs to be done. I applaud their creative method of illustrating this crisis to the rest of the country. I want them to know that it resonates with us, it speaks to us, it shows us that we are indeed as one, and that those in power face the same great crisis that affects us all. It's about time those in Washington admitted that there is indeed a problem, and that it is a great crisis.
While I am sure most already know to what I am referring - for those who are still out of touch, to those who may still think they are not - or will not be - affected, on behalf of the rest of the American people, let me be clear, let me bring this down to your level, let me condense this great tragic crisis to a single word:
What? Did you think that the new administration was serious when they pushed through the confirmation of Timothy Geithner? Of course not. A man who couldn't figure out how to pay his taxes is now running the IRS. It's an obvious attempt to illustrate the major failings of the United States tax system.
Even when his former employer gave him the self-employment tax in addition to his normal compensation - he still could not figure out how to send that money to the IRS. He claimed his children's summer camp as a tax deduction. Don't blame his accountant, because some years he prepared his taxes himself. After all, he is a financial genius.
Apparently this is how broken the system has become, not only could he not navigate the complex area of self-employment tax, but this situation has been referred to as a 'common mistake'.
Don't think I am insulting the man's intelligence - I am simply taking him at his word. It was a honest mistake. I am sure that it's just a nasty coincidence that he waited so long that the IRS couldn't audit some of his previous returns. I am sure it was not malicious when he clicked the 'employed' button on Turbo Tax and accidentally kept the extra six or so percent the IMF gave him.
To not only nominate, but get him confirmed as Secretary of the Treasury - that's not arrogance and hypocrisy on the part of the new administration. It's a vibrant new way to show that even the best among us are confused and intimidated by the over sized and inefficient tax system.
To emphasize the point further, the administration brought in Tom Daschle and Nancy Killefer.
Daschel - who was to run Health and Human services - made the mistake of not paying taxes on the free chauffeur and car he was given (even Oprah had to learn that lesson the hard way).
Killefer - who was to be the brand new performance officer - just had some issues paying the District of Columbia unemployment tax efficiently. All these potential leaders of our nation just couldn't figure out their taxes. They didn't mean to keep more than their fair share, it's just such a confusing system.
It is the crisis of our time.
The tax code is so confusing, mistakes are so easy to make, perhaps it's time to just throw it all out. Maybe a flat tax would simplify things? Maybe everyone should have to pay their own taxes, like Geithner, so they know the struggles of the few who don't have withholding. Maybe we should just forget income tax, since it's so error ridden, and focus on a flat sales tax. That way Geithner wouldn't have to worry about the deductability of summer camp, he'd be paying taxes every time he could afford to send his kids there.
No matter what the solution, something needs to be done - they've all made that clear.
Perhaps once all the members of the current administration catch up on their taxes, we'll have enough to fund the stimulus bill.
Which, of course, is not really a stimulus, but the administration's hands-on way of illustrating the continual failure of socialism when put into practice.
Now this is change I can believe in.
Clinging To My...
"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."
That, my dear reader, is our Second Amendment. As a light brush up on your U.S. History: We adopted our Constitution in 1787. It contains 7 articles, the 5th of which gives instruction on how to go about amending the Constitution. Four years later we had the Bill of Rights added to the Constitution - our first 10 Amendments. Seventeen more Amendments have been added since then.
These amendments give us the right to free speech, trial by a jury of our peers, suffrage for every citizen 18 and older - no matter their race or gender, protection from unreasonable search or seizure - the list goes on.
Our Constitution and Amendments are promised to us as American citizens. But our current President would like to take away your rights. How do we know that? He has consistently voted to make gun ownership more difficult. He strongly believes concealed carry permits should be unavailable, or at the least only be available to retired police officers. Any semi-automatic weapon has no purpose besides killing and should be banned, according to President Obama.
When interviewed, President Obama has said that the Second Amendment is important to follow. Seconds later he'll talk about how a handgun ban is constitutional. When questioned how his reasoning is at all sane, he'll start with a "we have two conflicting traditions here." Then he'll throw nouns and verbs together for a few seconds. You can watch the video multiple times and never actually come to a conclusion on what exactly he is saying.
Don't believe me?
"Because I think we have two conflicting traditions in this country. I think it's important for us to recognize that we've got a tradition of handgun ownership and gun ownership generally. And a lot of law-abiding citizens use it for hunting, for sportsmanship, and for protecting their families. We also have a violence on the streets that is the result of illegal handgun usage. And so I think there is nothing wrong with a community saying we are going to take those illegal handguns off the streets. And cracking down on the various loopholes that exist in terms of background checks for children, the mentally ill. We can have reasonable, thoughtful gun control measure that I think respect the Second Amendment and people's traditions."
Ah... I love the sound of a lying politician in the morning. Go ahead, read it again, it still won't make sense.
The speculation among gun owners and Second Amendment activists is, at it's base, a definition of speculation - conjecture and supposition. No one knows what will happen, but we're all afraid that it will happen.
President Obama's reference to people "clinging to their guns" is actually happening! People I know and consider normal, healthy minded people, are buying ammunition in bulk - 10,000 rounds - because of increasing prices and President Obama's history of taxing ammunition. They're scurrying about, purchasing as many things that could be classified in the future as "assault weapons" as they can.
These rational people are even becoming "conspiracy theorists" - repeating stories of microchips placed in guns, and ammunition that is marked and identifiable. But what makes those "conspiracy theories" so outlandish? What if these "theories" aren't so far from where we are today?
If just the speculation of a Second Amendment restriction is causing such a wave of fear, what will happen if laws are made that do, in fact, restrict this Amendment? You can ignore my crazy gun-nut friends, but what will happen to the rest of you rational citizens? What will guarantee any of those rights you so consistently take for granted?
Oh, of course, they wont be ignored and taken away because "they are constitutional". But remember, "limiting" them will help protect our society. Go ahead and insert another thirty seconds of verbs and nouns.
America has elected a dangerously unknown President - there is no clear answer on what his plans are. Be wary and watchful, that's the only way to protect your rights! Don't just give up what's rightfully yours.
Oh, and according to Joe Biden, if you nickname your gun you are mentally deficient and you shouldn't own one. I can already see the new question at the bottom of your gun registration papers. Along with "are you a felon" and "have you ever been charged with violent crimes" now we will see "have you or are you planning to name one of your firearms?" And who knows, maybe "can you stand up?"
Good thing I didn't name my truck or Joe might take her away.
A Picture's Worth a Thousand Words
Political and Editorial cartoons are as old as Ben Franklin and his 'Join or Die' - illustrating that the survival of the colonies would only be possible if they United. They're as old as Martin Luther comparing an image of Jesus throwing the money changers out of the temple with an image the Pope selling indulgences.
Simple or complex, they make a point without a long essay - and sometimes without words at all.
They make statements larger than life - illustrating extremes by magnifying situations.
They've always been a part of American culture.
They're definitely about Absolutes and Opinions.
And now they're a part of AO.
[We hope this will become a recurring feature - it might take us a little bit to get things running smoothly. Click the 'behind the cartoon' link for a 'tour' through the stories each cartoon references.]