Friday, June 24, 2005

You Have Got to Be Kidding Me?

Today, the inimitable Charles Krauthammer has an excellent piece in the Washington Post about the vapidness of the Democratic Party . He calls them "A Party Without Ideas". How can anyone, even the most staunch liberal partisan claim otherwise, why, they haven't had a unique idea since Medicare. (I didn't say 'good' idea)

In contrast the Republicans are full of ideas...

When I heard that the House had passed a constitutional amendment banning flag burning I was floored. You have got to be kidding me? With all the challenges this country is facing they have the audacity to waste our time with this? Are the Repulicans really that intent on losing control of the power we have given them when many of us left the rot that was the Democratic Party 20 years ago to follow Reagan?

Do they really think that this is some kind of patriotic litmus test? "We'll make those liberal weenies squirm! If they don't fall in line with the flag burning ban we'll really have them!" What kind of delusional thinking is this?

In 1994 when the Republicans won back the Congress for the first time in two generations I had such high hopes. If I remember correctly they started off with this stupid flag burning ban back then too. Then they moved right on to the pressing problem of prayer in schools. Those jackasses, no not the Democrats this time, are up there spending this country into bankruptcy at a rate that would make Tip O'Neil blush and they give us a freakin' flag burning ban.

Hey, Rebublicans - What about making the tax cuts permanent? What about supporting the President on Social Security reform? What about an energy plan? What about border control? What about the damn War on Terror?

Someone tell me why this is worthy of any discussion. Maybe I am missing something. The decision by the Supreme Court on this issue was one of the few lately I thought they got right. While it may be distasteful, repugnant and provacative burning the flag is a form of political speech which is allowed under the first amendment.

This is a sick little power play to try to embarrass the Democrats into being "patriotic". What a sham.


Sunday, June 19, 2005

Book Review: State Of Fear

Author: Michael Crichton

This book created a lot of controversy, which I assume was the actual intention of the author when he sat down to write it. Crichton, famous for such books as "The Andromeda Strain" and "Jurassic Park", has always mingled hard science with imaginative fiction. Make no mistake - this book is fiction. It is however, more than that, it is a warning. The world is in dire straits, but it's not because of global warming which Crichton admits may indeed be happening, but because of agenda driven science, the politics of fear and media manipulation.

Ideologues on both sides of the global warming issue have used this book to bludgeon each other. I did not get the impression that Crichton was soon to be announced as the keynote speaker for the Republican Convention and I'm fairly certain the DNC wants no part of him.

The main premise of State of Fear is that since the dawn of civilization we have always been controlled by our fears. Kings, dictators and presidents have used fear to advance certain agendas and there is no reason to believe it won't continue this way for the forseeable future. A case can be made that it is sometimes for the good and sometimes for the bad. Who could argue that the fear of Nazism fostered in America and Britian during the 1930's was bad? Conversely, who in today's world would say that eugenics, the fear of what immigrants and so-called inferior races would do to the gene pool, pushed in the early 1900's was good.

When one "threat" wains something else steps into its place to consume the public with fear that then allows the establishment, be it government, media, industry or even, perish the thought, environmentalists to try to exert control. World War II was followed by the Cold War which shaped everything we were as a society for decades. When the Berlin Wall fell something else had to be erected to take its place. That something eventually manifested itself as global warming and the "crisis" of climatic upheaval. Scary stuff. In 2001, for a time, even global warming took a backseat to the threat of global terrorism, and can anyone seriously doubt that 9/11 wasn't expertly used to breed fear. (Again, fear can be a healthy thing, too).

As a work of fiction this book is not going to go down in history with the great works of literature, but it was a thoroughly enjoyable read. The characters were, as some critics have noted, fairly one dimensional, but the pacing and action sequences left little room for deep, reflective insights into their souls. The bad guys in State of Fear are the environmental cults. His critics have proclaimed this proves that Crichton is in the back pocket of right-wing industrialists. Yes, but the bad guys in Jurassic Park were scientists and businessmen... What does that prove? He goes out of his way several times in the narrative to say that industry buys the data and statistics it uses just as much as the environmentalists do.

I really can't argue with the point Michael Crichton is trying to convey with this book. He clearly believes that the crisis of global warming is a sham and he believes the captains of the envronmental movement do too. He seems to think that most people who would call themselves environmentalists are decent if not wholly misinformed people. No one, including myself believes that we should wantonly pollute and disregard the damage unchecked human activity can produce, but the environmentalist movement at its core is anti-western civilization, anti-development and frankly, anti-human. They would and do deny to the undeveloped world the very things that have made us in the west richer, stronger, healthier and happier.

Their tactics are clever, viseral, effective and often immoral. If you haven't paid attention you should. Watch how they have managed to get everyone in the media to attribute every concievable natual disaster to the global warming effects of human activity. It's no accident that the crisis driven media is aiding their cause.

Americans are often portrayed as rubes and unsophisticates in the opinion pages and the popular culture, but I contend we know bullshit when we see it. I won't pretend to believe that the leaders of Europe and Asia who have bought into this are anything less than socialist partisans whose real agenda is an anti-capitalist, anti-American conspiracy.

They don't fear global warming, they fear a second American century.


I am as guilty as the next guy at trying to breed fear to highlight a certain point of view. One has to look no farther than the article that precedes this one. I have a fear of China. I have used "feelings" and certain facts that advance my belief in order to get you the reader to believe it too. Is this bad, disingenuous and hypocritical? Not neccesarily, remember fear can be a healthy thing too. Until it is proven otherwise I will continue to see China as a threat to the freedom of the world...

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Welcome to the Dawn of the Chinese Century

A Big Hearty Thanks to WalMart!

Personally I am not a WalMart shopper. I prefer the clean, neat and organized environs of Target or Sears. This is not to say that WalMart shoppers are anything less than I, but face it, the stores are cluttered, disorganized and dingy. As for low prices, well that's just great, but low prices as an end all is very misleading. For every ebb there is a flow and for every cause there is an effect. Low prices here means low wages somewhere else...

WalMart is the epitomy of the term "Creative Destruction" which is often used to portray the effects of American capitalism. While the term may have some negative connotations it really is an apt description, something new is born and something old dies. WalMart has brought it to a new level, a level I will call creative annilhilation.

A decade ago I used to dismiss the handwringing by the small town folks when a new WalMart came to town. The truth was that most of these small towns were already in decline before WalMart came. The big box retailer was simply the final nail in the coffin of Mom and Pop shops all over the heartland. I used to say, well, WalMart has something the people want otherwise they wouldn't be packed with shoppers looking for those famous low prices.

Times have changed since then and I no longer feel that WalMart is merely filling a need. I must say I was sickend by the PBS program Frontline: (which is one of PBS's finest offerings) called "Is WalMart Good for America?" . I must conclude that the answer is now no.

During the early 90's WalMart's "buy American" strategy was failing, it's stock price was falling and prospects for continued growth at the rate they had established was looking grim. In the decade that followed they adopted a "buy Chinese" strategy and with the help of a landmark trade deal with China, negotiated by none other than the Clinton Administration, they became the largest company in the world. Did I mention that both Bill (Clinton) and Sam (Walton) were from Arkansas?

Who can fault them for taking advantage of the circumstances? Truthfully, they would be foolish not to. However, again, WalMart has taken it to a new and despicable level. In this global economy national loyalty is a joke when the bottom line is all that matters. The effects of this new business paradigm is devastating America in countless ways, and until consumers realize that these famous "low prices" are very reason their small towns and their good jobs are drying up they will watch hopelessly the last gasp of the American century.

To watch a clip of President Clinton touting the new China trade agreement as a boon to American made product and a victory for free trade through the lens of 20/20 hindsight only made the reality that much more stark. At one California port the imports from China alone were worth 36 billion while exports to China were just over 3 billion. More telling than even the incredible trade imbalance was what those import/exports actually were. From China we receive - well, you name it - everything under the sun. To China we send raw materials such as metals, chemicals and plastics. We are to China what third world countries were to us 50 years ago. I'll let you guess who the lion's share of those imports went to. Yeah, you guessed it, WalMart. Some trade deal Clinton worked up for us, huh.

Still, what can you say about WalMart? They are an American company employing many thousands of Americans. Their products need to be shipped from one place to another which employs yet thousands more in the transportation industry. Then, of course, there are those low prices. WalMart is saving John and Jane consumer a bundle. Isn't this all good? Well, what about Rubbermaid and Thompson and any number of American factories that have shut their doors in the last five years. When asked what happened they will all point to one culprit, WalMart.

For me the last straw was the incredible story of the last manufacturer of TV's in America. Forced to make only high end big screen TV's by prevailing market conditions they were suddenly faced with a Chinese manufacturer who was dumping big screen TV's on the US market. They filed a suit based on provisions in the trade agreement and watched as Chinese companies lined up against them. But the Chinese companies had a good friend on their side, WalMart. Ultimately the American company won the suit and is thankfully still in business, for now. What if WalMart had its way?

I am not an activist and I won't be leading any charge against WalMart, but I am fairly certain I won't be spending one thin dime in their stores.


Sunday, June 12, 2005

We're Number One!

I have been following with great interest the Christian haters across this great country as they one by one tear down every visage of Christian symbology. Frankly these miserable excuses for human beings make me ill. In the name of some spurious belief that the U.S. constitution calls for a separation of church and state they have been successful in getting the courts to order the removal of everything from small plaques bearing the Ten Comandments to the giant cross on Mt. Soledad in San Diego.

"We the people" has no meaning to these intolerant athiests. In city after city the will of the locals has been ignored. The cross in San Diego has been the subject of numerous stories and debates in the national dialogue. President Bush has even gone to bat for the preservation of the Soledad Cross. Commentator Michelle Malkin has used it as one more example of how the ACLU and the athiests are winning despite massive public support for this and other historic monuments. Apparently athiests and non-believers are offended and scarred for life by the mere sight of these symbols of our overwhelmingly Christian heritage.

So I've been thinking... Wouldn't it be interesting to see if I (little 'ol me) could force the great city of St. Paul and US Bank to remove the giant #1 sign that sits atop the First National Bank Building in downtown St. Paul?

After all I am offended by this arrogant symbol that is clearly meant to impart that everything else is second class. If all the buildings can't be number one then none of them should be. What kind of lesson is this to "the children" - that it's OK to run around beating your chest that your better than everyone else? What about citizens of all the other cities that do not have a giant "one" on one of their buildings, surely they feel inferior to St. Paulites. I am ashamed when friends visit my city and see this arrogant display of machismo flashing oh so proudly above the city.

In reality the giant flashing #1 is a cry for attention. St. Paul plays second fiddle in the national spotlight to its sister city, Minneapolis. Indeed, Minneapolis is a larger city in every respect, more population, taller buildings and most important, home to all the big leauge sports teams. (I do not count the NHL as big leauge and nor should you). So, whenever the Twin Cities area is the focus of a national story or point of interest it is Minneapolis not St. Paul that is mentioned. This makes the giant flashing #1 even more offensive as it is a symbol of our inferior self-image as a big city. I want it taken down!

The question is, if I were to get a lawyer and file a complaint with these charges would I be taken seriously? Probably not, at least not by the fine people in the city of St. Paul and surrounding area. However, I believe I could get a whole wagon full of activists and even a judge or two who would rule in my favor and down it would come. I would stand smuggly before the cameras on the courthouse steps declaring that it now safe to view the skyline once again.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Friedman on Social Security

Milton Friedman has never liked Social Security. He never liked Ponzi schemes either, but then I am being redundant. To my dear mother's generation Mr. Friedman is dealing in heresy. This is largely because this multi-decade old scheme hasn't yet peaked and begun the inevitable collapse that characterize all such frauds.

Friedman was calling for privatization of Social Security in the early sixties. Barry Goldwater made it a campaign issue in the '64 presidential sweepstakes - and lost in a landslide. We hear now (according to mainstream media polls) that President Bush is failing to convince America that private accounts are a good thing. What the media will not report is that private accounts for Washington politicians and many governmental entities are paying huge dividends that dwarf the measly Social Security checks my mother receives. These fortunate few pay no FICA taxes and "own" their retirement savings that can be ultimately passed on to their heirs.

The tipping point for this Ponzi scheme is still a ways out there so the crisis that President Bush talks about feels a million miles away. The Democrats are actively endorsing all attempts to label the impending collapse of Social Security and perhaps the economy itself a counter-scheme by the Republicans to steer even more money to their Wall Street friends. It is dishonest and frankly dangerous to keep ignoring the 800 pound gorilla in the room. Why is OK for elected federal officials and municipal New York City sanitation workers the enjoy private accounts and not the rest of us? The Democrats love to cite the sacred trust Social Security binds us to, the beloved "lock box", the guarantee we will all enjoy. What good is that guarantee if the government can't pay it's IOU's. Why is the insurance industry not facing the same crisis as baby boomers age and payouts to beneficiaries accelerate? Friedman addresses this here:

"Everybody goes around talking about the problems created by the declining number of workers per retiree," he said. "How come life insurance companies aren't in any problem?"

The question is quintessential Friedman: simple, accessible and formidable.

Life insurance companies take premium payments and invest them in factories and buildings and other income-producing assets, Friedman said. These accumulate in a growing fund that can then pay benefits. Social Security, by contrast, operates pay-as-you-go, collecting payroll taxes from workers that immediately go to pay retirees.

The biggest misconception about the program, he argues, is that workers believe it works like insurance, with the government depositing taxes in a trust fund.

"I've always thought it disgraceful that the government should be essentially lying about what it was doing," he said.

Isn't this true? How can the Democrats argue against the truth? Sorry, that was a silly thing to say. There is no "lock box" there is no "trust fund", what we have are empty IOU's and empty promises. When the collapse comes the govenment that refused to deal with this now at President Bushs' urging will be taking benefits from retirees AND taking higher taxes from wage earners. I commend President Bush for having the guts to take on this issue. President Clinton said many of the same things Bush is saying, but just like that little issue of regime change in Iraq, Clinton did essentially nothing.

In the end we are foolish not to be planning for our own financial health in retirement. Owning a home, contributing to a 401K and IRA's are a few things we can do to give us fighting chance when Social Security fails us. Friedman, Goldwater and President Bush may be brushed aside on this issue but we can't say we weren't warned.