Thursday, July 31, 2008

Welcome to the Third World!

Two news items of interest to me today...

Exxon Mobile posts another record breaking quarter making $1,485.55 a second!!!

More women donating eggs, not to help out those with fertility issues, but to get paid!

Without any context, you'd think these stories are coming out of Russia where such disparities aren't even newsworthy.

Meanwhile, McCain and Obama are busy worrying about who's campaign played the race card first, which really doesn't matter since the white guy is always the racist.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Things I like about Obama

It's a short list, but in the interests of being fair...

Acknowledges Progress in Iraq

This one required courage since his party has run on/against Iraq since 2004. There are still Dems calling for retreat, even though they have had the ability to de-fund the war themselves since winning Congress in 2006. This position may isolate those Dems, but the ability to modify policy in a changing environment is certainly a positive and shouldn't be overlooked. It also takes character to stand against the white flag waiving masses who were dead set on making sure Iraq was a complete failure.

I'm sympathetic to many arguments against the war in Iraq, debate set aside, it makes little sense to give up when we and the Iraqis are making so much progress!

Reality with Iran

The easy road would be refusing to discuss Iran and a possible preemptive strike by Israel. Recognizing the threat and consequences is leadership, or at least a first step. Although this won't sit well with many on the left who are critical of any tough Middle East policy, it needs to be discussed.

It's clear we can't just talk or "pretty-please" the Iranians out of their nuclear program. The Russians learned that even bribing them has failed.

Whoever the next President of the United States is, he has been handed a difficult legacy when it comes to the Middle East. If Obama wants any credibility on national defense he needs to continue to bring the Iranian issue front and center--it will likely be the next big defense issue.

Condemned Ludacris' Ridiculous Song

Or rather his "camp" did--I'll give Obama credit.

I don't want to get into the song itself except to say that it's disappointing Ludacris has any political sway. If I wanted to know how to pimp my ride, I'd ask him, but who to vote for... Don't think so.

Again, it would have been easy to let this one sit, creating support with the thug demographic while conveniently distancing himself from it (wasn't his song) should it become a liability. It took courage to condemn the song and the values and it was done immediately.

R.I.P. Free Market, Integrity, Responsibilty, Freedom, Etc...

The latest housing bailout, er I mean "rescue" bill, further takes the "housing crisis" and distributes it to each working class American on top of the record breaking national deficit of $482 Billion we'll be facing next year.

I could say a lot here about what a conservative President would do, but it's not necessary, since we don't currently have one in office.

While the bailout is politically intended to help out struggling homeowners in an election year, it will certainly be used by the banking industry and Wall St. to clear the books of bad subprime loans that originators knew homeowners could never pay. The $300 Billion will be used by Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac to buy up subprime notes after the banks write them down by 10%. This will cap the banking industries losses at 10% of "current market value," a subjective standard to begin with, while pushing the 90% back onto the backs of taxpayers. All after Wall St. has made billions banking on subprime. And yes, the banks know exactly which notes to unload and which ones they can safely continue to hold.

Enough about the banks, let's look at the values here...

If we are going to have a free market, then consumers must be free to make their own choices. With freedom comes accountability. When people are free to make their own choices we have to accept that some of them will make bad choices. This happens all the time and certainly isn't limited to housing.

If we are going to bailout people when they make bad choices, we will be removing the natural consequences thus encouraging more bad choices. It's the slippery slope and soon individual freedom becomes too expensive for the collective.

So while some Americans may receive some assistance to stay in the homes they could never afford and should have never purchased, we will all be left picking up the tab which will likely be passed to future Americans in the form of taxes, inflation, and market controls.

I can't wait for our next "crisis!"

Friday, July 25, 2008

Campaigning for the Presidency... In Europe?!?

If you've read the news over the past three or so days, you can't help but hear all about Senator Barack Obama's presence in Europe after visiting the Middle East. Many are applauding the Senator's trip and his openness with our European allies, many saying this is the kind of fence mending we need after Iraq.

I have another take; Barack Obama's visit amounts to campaigning (grand-standing for some), is of poor judgement and will have lasting negative consequences. Once again, a politician has put his own thirst for power before what is good for America and Europe.

Before I lay it out, let me say there is a marked difference between visting a foreign country on a campaign trail, to get to know the people/issues, and campaigning. The two are wholly different. Barack Obama's campaign has made a concerted effort to make this a high profile visit with speeches all along the way, this is campaigning. Had Obama gone to Germany to chat with Chancellor Angela Merckel, talk about NATO, foreign trade, etc... he would have won more respect but of course garnered less media attention.

Bad for Europe

In the Berlin speech, Obama worked his charisma and asked Germans to join with Americans on a series of issues. He opened by saying he was there to speak as a global citizen, not as a President (which is good since he hasn't been elected, although that is news to some).

The massive Berlin crowd showered Obama with applause, an obvious sign of approval. But what does that approval mean? Has Europe just been given legitimacy, or the perception of legitimacy, in the American political process? Obama spoke as a global citizen, the crowd was full of global citizens offering their collective global approval.

But Obama isn't running for President of the World, he is running for President of the United States of America.

Last time I checked, we didn't ask the citizens of any foreign country for approval on our Presidential candidates? Obama's visit creates the perception that we are indeed very interested in that approval.

If European (perceived) approval is now a pre-requisite for taking office, what will happen if the American people choose the other guy? Will Europeans respect our democratic process and our democratic choice for President? How will that impact our relations with Europe?

If we have a 2000 election scenario, would any of these countries to take a side with "their guy?" Will they acknowledge the lawfully elected President?

If we have a 2004 election scenario, can we expect any of these countries to file a complaint with the International Court to review our electoral college when it robs "their guy" of victory?

The entire world has a vested interest in who the next President of the United States will be, but they have zero right to any representation in our political process.

Obama's outright pandering to crowds in Europe has given Europeans the false perception that they have influence over our election process. Should that influence be tested, our relationship with our European allies will be significantly harmed.

Bad for America

The Presidential election is a special time for the country--one of the few times we get to come together are really decide an issue on a national level.

It is our time to be selfish.

For many, they will take that to personal level and vote for the candidate offering the most entitlements or other goodies. Some still believe in picking the candidate best qualified for the job.

While there are many in America who care more about how the world views us than the issues we face, most Americans will be nearsighted in their decision; and they should be!

Disregarding domestic issues, or what's in the best interest of the county on foreign issues, to win/maintain popular world opinion would be a crime against the American people. A President's first duty is to his country, his people, and the Constitution (and I'm not sure it's in that order).

When the media sells us this European endorsement of Barack Obama, and we buy into it, allowing this to weigh into our decision making process, we give up a bit of our sovereignty.

There are just too many issues facing this country to allow foreign opinion to further muddy the waters.

If Barack Obama wants to run for the office of Supreme Ruler of the World then he should continue the global politicking. But if Obama wants to be President of the United States, then he should have stayed at home and only offered his time, voice, and consideration to Americans.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

DNC Doesn't Pay Gas Tax

On Tuesday The Rocky exposed a deal the Democratic National Committee had with the City of Denver which enabled them to get tax-free gas at special city pumps. There was even debate on whether or not the DNC would pay the discounted wholesale rate Denver locks in on its fuel contracts or have to pay a market rate.

After being caught, the guilty party quickly agreed to pay "fair market" plus taxes for the fuel used. I can't believe how quickly this story has faded from the local and national media. It not only exposes the hypocrisy of tax-and-spend elites but also how un-green (uh, brown?!?) the convention will be.

There's a lot of analysis about this on the web from Mayor Hickenlooper trying to say the RNC got the same deal (which they didn't), to the outright hypocrisy, to theories about this being done to cushion the DNC budget shortage, and so-on. But I think there's a fundamental piece missing when it comes to the justification of such taxes.

Gas taxes are championed by the left as a means of curbing carbon emissions/consumption according to the following logic...

Higher Taxes = Less Consumption
Less Consumption = Better for the Environment
Higher Taxes = Better for the Environment

By this logic should anyone really be exempt from gas taxes?

Even with $4.00/gal gas, some are saying we should increase gas taxes to even higher levels to further limit carbon emissions. This, in a environment with stale wages, and an ever increasing cost of living, is crippling the middle class.

Progressive taxation, another favorite tool for "social and economic justice" would require higher taxes for higher incomes. In which case the DNC, with a budget in the millions, should be paying considerably higher gas taxes than the average Denver metro resident with a median household income of only $41,767.

But both Denver and the DNC thought $0.00 in taxes was a better number!

The Notwist - The Devil, You, and Me

Imagine a German version of a less edgy Kid A era Radiohead and you get Notwist's The Devil, You, and Me.

Just the right mix of rhythm, guitar, and synth. Favorite track so far is Gravity. This is the kind of album you put on, listen to every track, and feel empty when it's over.

This is my first Notwist album and I think I'm hooked. I tend to work backwards when I make these discoveries so I'll have to check out their prior work.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Xcel and LEAP

Yeah, long time no post...

So I’ve started a new thing; whenever I feel someone has slighted me in a business transaction, I give that amount to a charity (provided I can afford it). I’m not sure exactly how this plays out logically but it makes me feel much better about getting ripped off and requires much less effort than getting angry, filing a small claims suit, etc… Maybe I’m creating justice from injustice, or maybe I’m just demonstrating better character. Don’t know.

In Colorado we have an energy assistance fund called LEAP (Low-Income Energy Assistance Program) run by Energy Outreach Colorado
. I’ve been familiar with the fund for some time thanks to my monthly Xcel bill which encourages a one time donation or a recurring amount which can be added to my monthly Xcel bill. Xcel also claims to match customer contributions.

The LEAP fund came to mind after I read a story at 9 News about 47,000 customers in the Denver metro area having their power/gas cutoff for non-payment.

After doing some research on Xcel's website (digging deep) I found out that Xcel actually only matches the first $1M of donations for 2008. The fund already has an estimated $7M for 2008 (which does not mean they'll have enough to meet the need in the community according to their financials). Meanwhile, Xcel claims credit for "raising" the money that its customers donate to the fund over the matching limit.

So I decided to give directly to Energy Outreach Colorado via their website which checked to see if there was any available matching programs from Xcel or my employer (no, there wasn't).

Each time Xcel gets hammered in the local media for raising rates they are always quick to point to LEAP which I now know is somewhat dishonest since the customers are putting up the majority of the contributions. While $1M might seem like a large contribution, consider that Xcel recently gave $1.1M to Democratic National Convention for the convention in Denver. I make this comparison because the DNC contribution is party money, while LEAP funds help the low income, elderly, and disabled keep their lights on and stay warm.

Xcel obviously does not have its priorities straight.