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I must say - I apologize.
I honestly didn't see this coming. I write up a half-sarcastic apology to the British Empire for some not quite up to snuff gifts - that's it. How was I to know that once the ball was rolling, this whole thing would snowball into our President apologizing for our country.
My bad. I was just kidding. Mostly.
I thought we got this all out before the election. I thought the speech in Berlin would be enough, when then candidate Obama said:
"We've made our share of mistakes, and there are times when our actions around the world have not lived up to our best intentions."
Really? To the Germans? That's the time to apologize for our country's actions around the world? Was it saving their country from a uncontrollable dictator? Or just our part in bringing down the wall that separated Berlin?
But now that the campaigning is over, now that he won not only the election, but - more importantly it would seem - the approval and adoration of those in other countries, wouldn't it be time to stop with the apologies? Apparently not, here's some of the latest:
"There have been times where America has shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive..."
"we may not always have the best answer, but we can always encourage the best answer and support the best answer."
"In America, there is a failure to appreciate Europe's leading role in the world..."
Yes, before some cries 'out of context', there are balances to those quotes. He blames Europe for their problems as well. But does that really matter? He's not the arbiter of the world, trying to impartially settle the disputes of two nations. He's the President of the United States, and he's saying those things on foreign soil.
Here's the point - he hasn't stopped campaigning. Before or after the election - it's not about our country, it's about him. This one last quote sheds a little light on things:
"I would like to think that with my election and the early decisions that we've made, that you're starting to see some restoration of America's standing in the world."
That's right folks. For the first time, you can be proud to be an American too. Not because of America, but because of Barack Obama.
To be clear, I'm not ashamed to be an American. I don't apologize for my country. Sure, we're not perfect, we've made - and learned from - mistakes. But we do not need to apologize to the world for who we are. Except maybe for our latest mistake - remember last November? Sorry about that.
Life Is Not Fair
[As we approach April 15th, here's a repeat from
a little over 5 years ago. Things were
Death and taxes two things everyone must experience. Oh, wait almost everyone must experience them. You see, we cannot change how we are born into this world, how much money our parents have, or how talented we are. Life is not fair.
Currently, everyone who works and receives an income pay 10% in taxes on the first $7150. After that, you will pay 15% until $29,050, at which point you will pay 25%. The federal government uses a graduated income tax on all working individuals, which means that the more you make, the more tax you pay. The other possibility would be a flat tax, which means that everyone pays the same percentage of his or her income.
One of the things that President Bush wants to do during his second term is to simplify the tax code. One of the ideas brought to the table was abolish the graduated income tax and implement a flat consumption tax. This is similar to the value added tax in many European countries. As expected, the idea summoned resistance from the left and has earned the label, unfair. They are right, it does seem unfair but only because the system would merely be adjusting from what already is unfair.
A flat tax mandates that everyone pay an equal percentage of his or her income THAT sounds fair. How should we deal with those who do not make much money? Quite simply, they pay less. If the government decides that it needs 20% of everyones income, but charges some less and some more, then they are messing with our standard of living. The government has been trying to raise the standard of living for low-income families at the expense of those who they deem well off.
I ask you, How is this fair?
There are many factors that go into what our standard of living will be - some factors we cannot change. However, I do not want the government deciding what is too much or too little. Let the combination of fate and effort determine how high our standard of living is. Being well off is not one of our inalienable rights.
Nowhere is this more evident than if we impose a consumption tax instead of an income tax. Imagine approaching the checkout counter with a TV in you shopping cart. The cashier proceeds to ask you how much you make, how many kids you have, and how much you gave to charity then they assess your sales tax. You realize that Uncle Sam has penalized you for making more than your less fortunate neighbors have. While this would seem absurd, it is precisely what a graduated income tax accomplishes.
Flat taxes are fair, period however, they may be less benevolent. Nevertheless, before you criticize me for not caring about the poor, I remind you that governments are inherently inefficient (that is a whole other article right there) and artificially forcing benevolence is not economically sound not to mention it encourages tax evasion. We do not need the government telling us to give money to the poor because that is not the purpose of our government. Americans have their own way of giving to the poor remember the tsunami? We showed the world that individuals in our country were willing to help those people affected halfway around the world without the government forcing us to.
Graduated income taxes are no different from welfare. Of course, once you have hordes of people dependent on the government to establish a higher standard of living for them, you inevitably make people mad when you have to take it away. The problem is not the flat tax; the problem is that those who have been paying less than their share. Think of it this way we all get one vote; we all pay one tax rate.
I will never win an Olympic gold medal in the 100-meter dash because I am not very fast. Should they allow me to start 3/4 of the way to the finish to make it even? This would be stupid and yet somehow people tell us that it is not fair that some make more money than others do. Life is not fair.
No, there's not another Donald Trump spin-off (at least not that I know of). Anymore, the answer to "can the President do that" is a resounding, "yes we can". While AIG employees have their compensation taxed away, the President forced the firing of GM's CEO. No, not the President of GM, but the President of the United States. Yes, GM could have just refused the bailout money - and I'm sure many would have applauded that - but we're seeing the federal government grasp for more and more control as they use 'crises' as a justification.
And we've seen so much progress because of it.
The bottom line is this - how can an administration that can't properly vet it's own appointments, and that pushes through the nomination of a tax fraud to Secretary of the Treasury, have any idea who should or shouldn't be managing a corporation.
And You're Hired
Yet another nominee with some kind of sordid past. Navy Secretary nominee Ray Mobus recorded a counseling session he and his wife had with his pastor/friend Jerry McBride. He knew about it, the pastor knew about it - but the wife? Nope, didn't tell her. That's probably why she said she would hate him until the day he died, and would express those feelings to the children.
Well, he got custody of the kids. And she's suing the church.
Okay, so it's like something Cheney would do - and really, would anyone care if it wasn't for all the other nominee problems? Sure, they say everyone has skeletons in the closet, but this administration is looking like one of Hussein's mass graves. Saddam that is.
Doing Your Part
Remember, this is the era of responsibility. We're all supposed to pitch in and do our part. So what's in it for you? More taxes, with a lower charitable contribution deduction. The moral of the story - the charity of hope & change is the government. I bet you didn't think they'd find a way to tax responsible living. Some say this will cost charities more than the recession. Go figure.
It's Not Easy
Now Elmo knows what it's like being green. The furry little puppet has gone from red to green in an attempt to help kids understand what's really important - saving the planet from ultimate destruction. Because we're really so close to that. We've got one carbon footprint in the recycle bin, the other on an organic banana peel.
Is this really what's important? With all that's going on in our nation and the world, do we really need to be concerned with hybrid cars, energy efficient light bulbs, Al Gore, and composting? Sure, those last two have a lot in common - but with the free markets manipulated like a Jenga game, personal freedom consumed by a untethered government, congress spending money no one has, terrorism called anything but terrorism, are there really people out there worried that my car will cause the entire world to go poof?
Or maybe they just don't like the solutions to the real problems. Maybe it is easy being green after all.
100 Month War
Bill O'Reilly has been number one for 100 months, and to celebrate visited David Letterman, who hasn't. Rush as the republican leader, Glenn as a charlatan, and Letterman the weather guy - all topics of conversation.
Little short this week because we're working so hard to pay our taxes. Yes, it is that time of year - we're just waiting for the tax break 95% of us are getting. Still waiting. Still.
A Harmful Comparison
Today I was reading an editorial in my local paper about abortion and the contributor was asking how someone could be "pro-life" and "pro-death penalty." If this was the only time I'd seen this comparison, I would just laugh and turn the page. But I've lost count at how many forums and editorials have contained this poor comparison.
Most normal people (you know, people who don't enjoy killing things or being moral dictators), don't have a problem being both pro-life AND pro-choice. Those words obfuscate the real crux of the argument (though most people will eventually admit to what the argument really is). But when someone takes the actual verbiage and uses them to make a point, they show that either they don't know ANYTHING about the other side's argument OR they just did not put any thought toward the things they write.
First, the difference between pro-life and pro-choice is most often the argument of when life begins NOT whether it is right to kill a small child. People labeled as pro-choice generally do not believe they are killing babies (except for a few winners that think killing mentally ill kids is cool). They believe they are killing a growth that does not have humans rights as given under the Constitution ("life" would be a key one there). I'm not going to argue that point here. However, labeling them pro-death only has relevance from the side of those who are pro-choice and make their case that life begins at conception or at least earlier enough that abortions are wrong. The other way applies as well. Pro-life people are labeled "anti-choice" which only works from their side and not both ways - for those who believe that killing a fetus is murder, abortion is not a lawful choice (since life is protected by the Constitution).
Second, there are those for and against the death penalty. Those for the death penalty are NOT pro-death from their perspective. They believe that Government has the right to take a life in certain circumstances (whether or not you agree with this is not the point of this article). Those who are against the death penalty are not necessarily against justice either. The death penalty is a matter of a) Is there a crime for which death is proper, and b) Does the Government have the authority to take a human life when that human has committed a particular crime? It has NOTHING to do with whether or not the person arguing likes to kill people (*sigh* yes I know there are a few that fit that bill but I'm sure we mostly agree on those).
This particular contributor is talking about people that are for the death-penalty but against abortion. How can you even begin to compare the time at which a fetus becomes a human to the punishment of a crime? Has the fetus committed 1st-degree murder? Is the criminal not a human? I'm sure some will cry hyperbole. In some cases this may be true but as I've said, I've heard this argument MANY times from many different people. If it was supposed to just be a joke then apparently some have picked it up as their rhetoric.
Whatever side you're on - please know where the crux of the argument is when you make your point. The only argument that should happen (under the Constitution) for abortion is whether or not the person is a human and a citizen of the US. If they are, the argument is over. If you favor killing already born babies because of defect, that's your prerogative, but you'll need to get an amendment passed (good luck with that - I would vote against you in a heartbeat). Capital punishment and abortion are not related in any way and saying that it is inconsistent to be both pro-life and pro death penalty is ridiculous.
And For My Next Trick
There's a puff of smoke, maybe a flame, followed by the wave of a hand bringing the crowd's surprise. With the smoke and the flame, the movements of his hands, the magician - the illusionist - took their attention away from what he was doing, until they'd already missed it. By then it was too late, all they saw was something appear out of nothing.
Misdirection can be a tricky thing.
I wonder how many Germans woke up one day and suddenly wondered where their country had gone. Or maybe for some it was just a nagging feeling they quashed until it they could deny it no longer. I recently watched The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, and one thing that struck me was the portrayal of how much hatred and blame there was toward the Jews. Yes, it is just a movie, but the truth is still there - Germany was a nation hurting, and they found some kind of comfort in finding someone to blame for their wounds.
Perhaps that's something that should concern us now, with all this outrage and anger. It's not the ever present political passion during the continual clash of ideas in a country based on freedom of thought and belief. No, it's a focused outrage, directed towards specific institutions, specific people, a minority who have been singled out by the relatively few - in relation to our population - that occupy certain positions in government. It's anger about corporate jets and the bonuses of private citizens. It's dangerous.
The Germans found someone to blame, but they lost their country. I'm not as well versed in history as some, but I can't imagine the rise of Hitler would have been possible without the emotional tide of a citizenry swept up in hatred and blame.
Unlike what some have said of our former President, I am not comparing our current President to Hitler - I'm comparing the situations of the two nations. Because while the outrage and blame may feel good to some, it would be wise to consider what the other hand is doing. If we don't, one day the rabbit will be pulled out of that hat, and no one will know where it came from.
Consider that the government is trying to draft a specific tax to essentially take away the only compensation given to specific individuals. Does that sound like America? Just this week the President of the United States forced the firing of an automotive industry CEO. Who would have thought that possible just a year or two ago? A prominent member of the press - who are guaranteed freedom under the assumption that they would be a check and a balance to the power of the government - has asked why the banks aren't just nationalized, and the executives fired. And the one thing that remains consistent, whether the headlines scream bonuses or airplanes, is that each step of the way the government gains more and more power, and grows larger and larger.
While the surprise of the illusionist's trick is usually a pleasant marvel, we're not at a magic show. While the crowd looks at the hand pointing the finger and in the direction it's pointed, be sure to watch that other hand, keep an eye on the sleeve, and check out that box that doesn't seem deep enough. Because that's where our country will disappear. And when you see it, nudge whoever is next to you - they need to see it too.
This week on AO - what part of your life are you willing to let someone else control? How about the government? And just how bad is failure? Isn't there someone you want to fail? Or someone who should? We also took a look and the most important position in the administration - regardless of past taxes.
Black, White, and Red All Over
So here's an idea. Why don't we make newspapers non-profit - since they don't seem to be able to make one. Yeah, that makes sense. If talk radio starts to falter, I guess NPR will just send some funds along. The argument is that newspapers - as a part of our democracy - are too important to fail. So just take that profitability thing away, and the only focus will be telling their story - as opposed to the story.
Wait, here's another idea - maybe they aren't making money because they aren't doing their job well. And maybe the solution is to change what they're doing.
Read the Instructions
Michele Bachmann asked Tim Geithner - Treasury Secretary and Turbo Tax Consultant - along with Reserve Chairman Bernanke about the Constitutionality of the bailout, the stimulus, and the possibility of converting currency. Obviously - and perhaps that was her point - there was nothing for them to point to in the Constitution. This whole thing is simply congress making it up as they go. While that may be legal, it doesn't mean it's smart.
Geithner categorically opposed the suggestion of China to drop the dollar - 'categorically' is a Turbo Tax term that means, 'at least until tomorrow'. It was only a day later he said he was open to the suggestion. And the market fell. No kidding.
At least someone in the minority party understands what the 'Do you want the President to fail?' question really means. Governor Bobby Jindal says:
Make no mistake: Anything other than an immediate and compliant, 'Why no sir, I don't want the president to fail,' is treated as some sort of act of treason, civil disobedience or political obstructionism...This is political correctness run amok. My answer to the question is very simple: 'Do you want the president to fail?' It depends on what he is trying to do.We'll that's a little like what we think too. Oh, and were the roles reversed - for example, the last eight years - I have the feeling those asking the question now would be grasping at failure no matter what the goal.
As times change, terms change - and this is the Presidency of change, so it shouldn't be any surprise that the 'global war on terror' will now be called 'overseas contingency operation'. That's only fitting now that future acts of terror will be called 'man caused disasters'. It looks like the goal is for things to be...less. Less confrontational, less motivating, and less clear. I guess it's like calling infanticide a choice. Of course quoting the Bible can be 'hate speech', so not everything is being toned down.
What's next on the linguistic hit list? Freedom?
The Bonus Round
It looks like someone got tired of only hearing Blarny Frank's perspective on bonuses - and just up and quit. Jake DeSantis - Vice President at AIG - sent his resignation letter to the CEO and the world. So I guess you can either believe the politicians who voted for the bonuses before they were outraged about the bonuses, or you can believe the guy who quit, worked for a salary of a $1 - yes, the rest of his compensation was, shocking, a bonus - and just decided to give away whatever the government doesn't steal back.
Or you could believe neither - either way, the bottom line is this: people like Jake DeSantis will start working where they can keep their money, and people like Frank and Geitner will still be spending our money. That just doesn't seem right.
And On The Left
ACORN is giving bus tours of AIG employee homes. I don't think that needs much more commentary. Apparently they haven't done enough damage. Yet.
Learn By Example
Daniel Hannan has something to say to Gordon Brown:
The truth, Prime Minister, is that you have run out of our money. The country as a whole is now in negative equity. You cannot spend your way out of recession or borrow your way out of debt... You know and we know and you know that we know that it's nonsense.
Is the same economic cloth is being used by the Obama Administration to custom tailor a straight jacked for our nation? As always the socialistic Emperor isn't wearing any clothes. Hannan's warning to us is that above all, don't socialize healthcare. And don't make the same mistakes as England. After all, isn't that why we're a nation?
You Can't Sing
I'll admit it. I'm not proud of it. I do have an excuse. I did it for someone else. If you were in my shoes you would have done the same. Still, I'm a little ashamed to say it publicly.
I've watched American Idol.
There, it's out now. Ridicule me if you must. I remember watching the tryouts (if that's what they're called). Someone would walk in knowing they were the next big thing. They say as much to the judges. Then they would sing. We would cringe. The judges would cringe. The camera would cringe.
Then they'd burst out the doors, angry and crying, enraged and confused. The judges with all their years of experience in the music industry knew nothing - family and friends told them there were great, and they were right.
At that level, the unrealistic opinions and expectations of success provided by the sincere - yet misguided - encouragement of friends and family may provide for some admittedly sadistic entertainment. But it's not quite as entertaining when it's the Presidency, and our country.
Rush Limbaugh knew full well what would happen when he said he hoped the President would fail. The context wouldn't matter, the qualifiers wouldn't matter, the obvious meaning would not matter. If he strung those four words together - he knew they would be the only words repeated. I, for one, think the backlash is good. I was happy to hear that Governor Jindal brought the subject back into light this week.
The question is asked, "Do you want the President to fail?", and it's laced with the presupposition that hoping for failure is inherently bad, and hoping for success inherently good. A simple answer of 'Yes' will make you seem like the bully bent on the humiliation of others, or the sour cynic hoping hat other's ambitions and dreams are dashed so you have company to share your misery. However a simple answer of 'No' will align you with his visions, goals, and wordview.
What makes failure so bad? If no one failed, would anyone succeed? If every game ended in a draw, every competition ended in an all-way-tie, and every idea was equal - what would be the point or it all?
Yes, a blanket desire to see the failure of others is not healthy, but neither is an unchecked desire for their success. Imagine every singer being passed through every stage, because it just wouldn't be right for them to fail. Eventually, it all would fail. And that, of course, is the point.
"Do you want the President to fail?" Let me answer it this way - I want the vision of our founding fathers, the vision of liberty and freedom and independence to succeed. And if that means the failure of a President's policies, I'm all for it - even better if he fails to implement the policies in the first place. If I have to choose between a failed United States and a failed Presidency, I'll take the failed Presidency any day.
The Loss of Control
Some ideas sound great until you realize the actual effect it might have on you. It reminds of one of Aesop's Fables - the one about the mice and the cat. Basically, the mice were being hunted by the cat and they agreed that something needed to be done. Apparently the cat like to sneak up on the mice and there was no time for them to escape. A solution was proposed to tie a bell around the cat so that they would know it was near. Everyone thought this was a great idea until one of the older mice spoke and asked, who will tie the bell around the cat's neck?
We've heard talk about a medical czar and how it is needed to make decision on what is and what is not a reasonable treatment. On the surface this sounds noble, after all, who wants to pay for frivolous treatments? In theory this would work because everybody would get exactly what they needed and nothing more. Nobody will complain until it's their surgery that is rejected. When they want the option to pay more to better their own lives (even if it's all in there heads); the option won't be there. I'm not arguing against all medical subsidies and I'm not even directly arguing against universal healthcare. I'm against taking what should be the choices of US citizens and placing them in the hands of a single US government bureaucrat. It's a loss of freedom, pure and simple.
I've also heard some plans from our new "energy czar" as she's called. We need blah, blah, blah and blah. Oh and smart energy grids. Now I love technology and any of my friends can attest to that. I'm all for optimizing the flow of energy in this country. I'm all for finding alternative sources of energy. I'm even OK with providing tax breaks for hybrid cars (though I'm not entire convinced of their efficacy). What I don't like, is the control the utility companies will have over my energy usage based on what they deem efficient. I'm not against giving the option to have them cut your electricity to save money, but why can't it be at the request of the customer only?
I've also heard talk of forcing hospitals (private) to perform abortions. Freedom of choice? Only for those having abortions. Since when is having an abortion fundamental to your health? OK, OK... just for the naysayers I'll give you the "life of the mother" argument. Let's say that we require those to be performed. But other than that? I wonder if the health czar would approve of that. So I can't have my elective surgery because someone else is forced to allow an abortion? I realize there will be ground rules and I'm not arguing that no good will be done. However, it is still a transfer of control from the US citizen to the US government. Even if you agree now on what is or isn't a required practice, what if that stance changes?
We are being told that we can't decide what is a proper treatment. We are being told that we have too much and that we use too much energy. And we are being told that abortions are absolutely necessary so that hospitals must perform them. Why? Because they know better than us. Funny how getting smart people in office means they can tell you what you need exactly - i.e. All-knowing. It may sound like a great idea to you because right now it does not affect you. In fact you probably won't notice for a bit and you may be able to avoid any problems. But someone will end up suffering - somebody will have to be the one to put the bell on the cat.
I would like to turn the argument around. Why should we give the government more power? They have more power today than ever before and few administrations have done anything to lesse the control of Government. Yet, we are being told this is the worst crisis the country has faced since the great depression. Prove to us that you can handle what power you have and maybe it will merit more. Except then everybody will realize that government is not the answer to all of this country's problems.